Mud Fever 101

Victoria Spicer and Rosie

Mud Fever 101

Wet, cold winters. Long, dark nights. Mud above your ankles. It’s all part of the ‘fun’ of keeping horses in Great Britain. And while we have just had one of the hottest, driest summers in decades, chances are that winter will not be so kind. We can only hope that the coming winter season will not be as wet as the last one, but as horse owners we can be sure that muddy conditions are on the horizon. And where there’s mud, there’s often mud fever; that means a mud fever 101 is very much in order!

So, we've called on the help of natural skin care experts, Botanica, to give us the low down on everything to do with mud fever!

What is Mud Fever?

Mud fever is a common skin complaint that generally arises during winter and early spring, causing painful sores and scabs. Also known as pastern dermatitis, mud fever is an infection of the pastern and heel area of the horse but it can also affect the upper legs and belly. Mud fever is extremely painful and can cause a thickening of the skin, hair loss and an unsightly appearance and even cause your horse to be lame. In some cases, mud fever can affect the neck and back of the horse, in which case it is known as rain scald. Although horses with white legs and pink skin are more susceptible, if the conditions are bad enough, all horses can suffer.

What Causes Mud Fever?

Mud fever arises due to a skin infection caused by the bacteria Dermatophilus Congolensis.  While normal, healthy skin acts as a protective barrier, preventing bacteria from entering the horse’s system and causing damage, in wet and muddy conditions the integrity of the upper layer of skin (epidermis) can become compromised by the abrasion of soil grit on cold, wet skin. And when the protective barrier of the epidermis breaks down, this allows the bacteria to enter and cause infection.

Treatment of Mud Fever

If your horse contracts mud fever, keep them out of the wet and mud as much as possible. Although many people say do not wash the legs of a horse affected by mud fever, that simply leaves the mud on the skin and brushing when dry can be painful on skin that is already sore and scabby.

Mud Fever 101: Botanica Cleansing Wash and Herbal Cream

Our customers at Botanica have had fantastic results over the years using a combination of Botanica Cleansing Wash and Botanica Herbal Cream, even on the most severe cases of mud fever. First, dilute the Cleansing Wash as per instructions and massage well into the affected area, gently lifting the scabs. Do not rinse it off, instead leaving for three to five minutes to allow the soothing, antiseptic qualities of the wash to work. Then apply the Herbal Cream, massaging well in. Do this twice daily and by the second week the scabby areas will be healing and you will have hair regrowth. Make sure you keep the skin clean and dry (except during the Herbal Wash treatment) until the area has healed.

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As with any bacterial infection, mud fever can worsen and become more serious very quickly if left untreated, so fast action is essential.

Prevention of Mud Fever

Good paddock management is key in helping to prevent mud fever occurring in the first place, so take preventative action as soon as paddocks start to get wet and muddy. Rotate paddocks where possible, so they don’t become poached and use electric fencing to prevent horses from standing in the deep mud that commonly collects in high traffic areas like gateways and water troughs. If you can, put good quality hardcore in these areas to provide a standing surface and better drainage, or field mats are also a great option to stabilise badly affected areas and are a great investment in your paddock’s long-term health.

There are many 'barrier’ style creams on the market, which form a protective layer between the leg and mud and which help protect the skin from moisture to help prevent mud fever. Similarly, there are several types of protective wraps on the market which are designed to help keep the horse’s legs clean and dry and so help to prevent mud fever and choosing one or other of these type of products can help protect a horse that is susceptible to mud fever.

For more information on Botanica’s range of natural skin care products see www.botanica.ie. If you have any questions about skin care issues you may have with your horse, call Botanica on 028 417 39151 or email enquiries@botanica.ie.

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