Every winter for as long as I remember Mud Fever has been a hot topic for all horse owners. It is a true case of prevention is better than cure as there is no exact method that cures this often debilitating lower limb skin issue.
What is Mud Fever?
Otherwise known as ‘Pastern Dermatitis’, mud fever presents itself in many different ways. Can be called “greasy heels” or “cracked heels”.
If a horses skin is healthy Mud Fever can struggle to take hold but if the horse has a compromised immune system or a skin wound, the infection ‘Dermatophilus Congolensis’ enters to body and multiplies between the epidermal layers, resulting in sore, broken, weeping skin ranging from acute inflammation to a few scabs.
The bacteria that causes the infection lives in the soil and is activated by wet weather, hence it being more common in the winter time and during wet weather.
What Causes Mud Fever?
There are a variety of factors that enable Mud Fever to develop and take hold on a horse. More common in wet weather and winter time as the constant dampness can weaken the skins normal defence against infection, meaning the bacteria can enter the skin and cause infection.
Any cuts, scrapes or breaks in the skin can allow mud fever chance to enter the horses body. Some horses can have all of the above and not be susceptible to mud fever even when turned out 24/7 and other horses can get mud fever at the slightest dampness in the ground, so genetics may play some part in how prone horses are to this disease.
Some soil types seem to be predisposed to giving horses mud fever, which may explain why several horses in the same field may get it or a horse that has never had it before comes down with it after moving locations.
Signs of Mud Fever
– Crusty scabs on lower limbs
– Circular lesions beneath the crusty scabs
– Hair loss on lower limbs
– Raw, inflamed skin on lower limbs
– Heat, swelling and pain when touching the limb
Prevention and Treatment
As always, prevention is easier than cure. A healthy horse with healthy skin will help you to prevent mud fever. Correct care and nutrition can go a long way but sometimes a horse may need other avenues explored.
The age old debate of what to do with a wet, muddy horse when it comes in from the field is not easily answered. Leaving the mud to dry naturally and then brush off is fine should the limbs not be sore and already compromised. Washing mud off can provide momentary respite for riding if boots are to be worn but take care not to scrub, or pick at scabs as to worsen the problem.
Using a barrier product such as Mud Relief will provide a waterproof, breathable and antibacterial protection against wet and muddy conditions before the skin becomes infected, and this is often the preferred choice for horses know to suffer each year.
There is no one particular product, vaccination or potion that fixes this age old problem! Careful management, attention to lower limbs and restricting exposure to conditions attributed with mud fever are the best way to manage, along with a topical application such as Mud Relief.
An all round product, such as Mud Relief, that acts as a barrier whilst reducing inflammation, soothing sore skin and acting as an antibacterial and antiviral agent will give you the best chance to wage war on this horrible disease.