Mud Fever Treatment

Mud Fever Treatment For Horses

Mud fever is a skin disorder affecting horses, and mud fever treatment needs to be undertaken at the first sign an infection has started to take hold. Unless the horse is subject to frequent and thorough grooming, any skin disorder can go unnoticed until it becomes rather severe, and mud fever is no exception.

Mud fever is a skin infection characterized by the formation of scabs on the skin. While it can occur anywhere on the horse, in the vast majority of cases it occurs on the lower limbs, in the area of the pastern and fetlock. The name mud fever comes from the fact that the disorder is usually the result of dampness and accumulated dirt or mud on the lower part of the horse's legs. This is most apt to occur during times of prolonged cold and wet weather where mud in a pasture or paddock will accumulate on the horse’s legs, leading to the skin problem.

Mud fever can also occur during dry dusty conditions though this is not quite so common. Whether conditions are wet or dry, what happens is if the skin is allowed to become softened (wet conditions) or cracked (dry conditions) there can be a bacterial invasion, the bacteria in question most often being Dermatophilus congolensis. Scabs will usually form which serve to give the invading bacteria an added shield of protection, especially protection against antibacterial lotions or ointments that may be applied. The hair has a tendency to stabilize the scabs, keeping them in place, and making mud fever treatment just that much more difficult.

If left untreated, mud fever can eventually cause a horse to go lame, and in extreme cases horses have had to be put to sleep. In most instances however a horse owner can treat the condition if it is not too far advanced, although calling in a veterinarian is usually a good idea.

Repeated washing and rinsing of the pastern area can sometimes make matters worse, especially if the legs are not dried off immediately after cleaning. One mistake some horse owners make when detecting the presence of mud fever is to apply an antibiotic or antiseptic without first removing the scabs. As noted above, the scabs give the harmful bacteria a protective shield, so they must be completely removed if the healing agent is to have an effect. This often requires shaving the hair in the affected area.

Mud Fever Prevention - There are several steps that can be taken to prevent an occurrence of mud fever. The most obvious of course lies in the daily care of the horse such that the skin in the pastern and fetlock area is not subject to prolonged conditions which can bring about an infection. Horses which have white stockings on one or more of their legs seem to be a bit more susceptible to mud fever, though there is no color that provides immunity. Draft horses or horses which have prominent feathers (long hair) on the back of the leg may need to have the feathers either trimmed or frequently groomed to keep mud and moisture from accumulating. The feathers however to offer protection of sorts, and if trimmed should only be partially and not completely trimmed back.

Wash Or Rinse, Then Dry - It doesn't necessarily take a muddy paddock to set the stage for mud fever. For that matter it doesn't even require mud, though mud is most usually the culprit. If a horse is worked daily and washed down afterward, the legs, and particularly the pasterns, should be dried completely with a towel. If left wet, the skin may become overly softened and mud fever could set in.

Mud fever, like most other ailments which can strike a horse, is something that is preventable. When a horse is properly cared for and attended to, mud fever treatment will be rarely if ever required.