Mud fever can affect many horses and ponies during the winter months and early spring, and tackling it is an essential part of maintaining horse health.
With wet weather found in abundance, this time of year represents the most likely time for your animal to contract the condition. Mud Fever can range from minor skin irritations to painful infected sores which in some cases can leave a horse with severe swelling or even lameness.
What to look for
Lower limbs of horses are affected by the condition, most commonly seen on the heel and the pastern although a similar condition can be seen on the upper body, referred to as “rain scald”. In its initial stages, matted hair with dry crusts form as the inflamed skin is weeping. The bacteria that causes Mud Fever are found in soil spores and are activated by wet weather conditions.
Both healthy skin that gets wet and damaged chapped skin caused by the constant wetting and drying of legs or small cuts allow the bacteria to enter. Muddy conditions are often associated with the condition but they are not always required for Mud Fever to occur.
Horses with white or hairless pasterns tend to suffer more with the condition as the skin is believed to be a less efficient barrier to it. Should a horse be suffering from another infection as well, then the skin can be prone to secondary infection and seeking help from a vet is required to ensure that the infections are properly dealt with.
While spotting the condition can be a relatively simple process, tackling it is not – the importance of regular checks cannot be underestimated. Simply put, prevention is better than cure.
Minimising the chances of Mud Fever occurring
In order to reduce the chances of Mud Fever occurring, there are several steps that can be taken. Where a horse’s legs do get muddy, it is best not to hose them down but instead to let the mud dry before then brushing it off. However, if this is not practical, then all efforts should be made to ensure that the legs are as dry as possible following washing.
In instances where bandaging is used for exercise, the legs should be clean and dry before use and bandages should be removed straight away afterwards to avoid irritation. Having the correct horse supplies also means that any bedding is dry and less likely to cause irritation, lowering the risk of Mud Fever occurring. Nutritional supplements could also be used to build up the skin’s resistance to infection while seeking a veterinarian is suggested if you notice an issue and are unsure of what you are looking at.
Using a barrier cream to dry and clean the legs before exercise can also help to limit the skin’s exposure to bacteria, with emollient or oily base creams recommended. The key aspect of preventing Mud Fever is to check your horse’s legs daily for signs of early infection as that reduces the likelihood of a long period of recovery. We also have a range of products that will be able to help if mud fever occurs.