With the recent horrendous rain we have been having in the UK lately, cases of mud fever have risen dramatically. Mud fever is caused by a variety of bacteria, which tend to thrive in wet and muddy environments. Let’s have a deeper look into what mud fever is, and the steps you can take to reduce the risk of your horse contracting it.
Signs of Mud Fever
If your horse does get mud fever, it is usually quite obvious - here are the main signs:
- Matted areas of skin containing crusty scabs, and often lesions underneath these
- Oozing discharge between the skin and the overlying scab
- Heat and swelling, with the horse reacting to pressure on the affected limb
- Hair loss, which can leave the area inflamed and raw-looking skin
- Cracked heels in severe cases
Treating Mud Fever
In extreme cases of mud fever it is best to call your vet and ask for their advice, but there are some practical things you can do for your horse in the first instance.
1. Wash the affected leg with a warm, diluted Hibiscrub solution or Keratex Medicated Hoof & Leg Scrub to clean the area and remove any potential infection. Lather it on, leave for 10 minutes and then rinse with warm, clean water.
2. Depending on the severity of the mud fever, you may need to clip away the hair to allow for thorough cleaning. Be careful as this can be quite painful for your horse due to the mud fever scabs.
3. Dry the area thoroughly after you have cleaned it. If your horse has feathers, you will need to trim these off so the air can flow and help the healing process.
4. Once your horse’s legs are clean and dry, apply a thin layer of antibacterial cream such as the Nettex Muddy Marvel Barrier Cream. The bacteria that causes mud fever thrive in airless environments, so don’t apply thick, oily creams to the area.
If you haven’t managed to get rid of the scabs with gentle cleaning, there is an option for those stabled at night. Cover up the scabs with a barrier cream, and cover this layer with cling film (be careful not to wrap this too tightly). Then apply a stable bandage over the top, and leave your horse overnight in clean, dry bedding. In the morning the scabs should have loosened sufficiently, allowing you to gently pick them away. Your horse is likely to be very sore and sensitive, so only rub the loose scabs off - leave any that are still firmly attached to the skin. You can repeat this process overnight until all the scabs are removed.
Preventing Mud Fever
Prevention is always better than cure, and when it comes to mud fever this is even more important. One of the best things you can do is take action as soon as your fields start becoming wet and muddy. The worst thing for mud fever is to let your horse stand in a damp place for long periods of time. If you can, rotate your fields so they don’t become too poached. Putting hardcore or grass mats down in gateways can really help with this too.
One of the worst things you can do if you suspect your horse has mud fever is to wash their legs down each time they come in. This damp environment is exactly what mud fever bacteria thrives in. You are best off letting the legs dry, then brush off the mud with a bristled brush. If you do have to wash their legs (if you are going off to a competition, for example) dry your horse’s legs thoroughly with a clean, dry towel.
If you don’t have the option to change your horse’s grazing arrangement and really struggle with the mud, it is worth investing in some Equilibrium Equi-Chaps which are breathable, and specifically designed for mud fever prevention. For more products to help with mud fever prevention, click here.