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Mud Fever in Horses - Causes, Treatment and Diagnosis

wet and muddy conditions cause mud fever

Mud fever is a skin condition that affects horses and ponies

Mud fever is also described as "Greasy Heel", "Cracked Heels", Grease, Rain Rot, Scratches, "Mud Rash", "Dew Poisoning" and Dermatophilosis.

Mud fever in horses is a form of skin infection or dermatitis which is caused by a micro-organism named "Dermatophilous Congolensis" which thrives in muddy and wet conditions.

It can cause swelling in the pastern areaof the horse's leg and may cause a horse or pony to go lame.

Mud fever is caused when the "Dermatophilous Congolensis" bacterium penetrate the skin. This can be either through a wound or also as a result of the horse or pony's skin becoming softened due to persistant moisture, mud or dampness on its skin.

Mud Fever is characterised by the scabs forming on the horse's legs. The horse's legs may have swelling in the area surrounding the mud fever scabs.

The crusty scabs that are caused by mud fever stick to tufts or clumpsof hair. When these scabs are removed the matted hairs come off with them.

In some cases mud fever can also progress to causes more serious infections such as equine cellulitis which is an extremely painful condition for a horse or pony.

Treatment of a horse with Mud Fever

  • If your horse or pony has a very bad case of mud fever - i.e. He is lame or has has swollen legs you should seek advice from your veterinary surgeon. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics and / or corticosteriod ointments and possibly an anti - inflammatory such as bute to reduce the pain.
  • Remove the affected horse from wet muddy field conditions and keep dry.
  • Gently remove any of the matted crusts from affected areas.

    Soaking the scabs or crusts in warm soapy water will help to soften them and make removal easier and less painful for your horse or pony.
  • When the mud fever crusts have been removed the affected areas of skin should be washed with an anti-bacterial solution and left for about 10 minutes.
  • The treated area of mud fever should then be rinsed then and towel dried with a clean towel.

  • Apply an antibacterial ointment together and also a moisture repelling product such as baby oil or vaseline .
  • Equine Corticosteriod ointment can also be applied to mud fever if prescribed by your vet
  • It is important not to cover the affected areas of mud fever with any ointments until the areas are claen and dry. Otherwise the "Dermatophilous Congolensis" bacteria can multiply in the damp conditions sealed in by the applied creams or ointments.

How to Prevent Mud Fever and Cracked Heels in Horses

  • The bacterium Dermatophilous Congolensis is naturally found on a horse's skin.

    Muddy fields and wet grass provide the damp conditions which cause an infection, which makes it very difficult to completely prevent your horse from suffering from Mud Fever.

    However taking preventative measures can reduce the chances of a horse getting infected with Mud Fever and reduce the severity of the symptoms.

    Always make sure that the horse's pasterns and heels are cleaned thoroughly and dried after exercise.

    Clip any long hair and feathers but avoid clipping all of the horse's legs.

    A good preventative remedy to try is to spray the legs , especially the back of the pasterns, with a half and half mixture of vinegar and baby oil after washing and drying drying.

    The baby oil moisturises the skin and prevents it from cracking, the acidic vinegar changes the pH value of the skin just enough to make conditions on the skin unfriendly for the bacteria to grow.

    Preparations like tea-tree oil and emu oil also have mild antiseptic properties and can also be used to try to prevent and treat Mud Fever.

    Use a feed supplement with a formula of herbs that help improve skin condition.

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Causes, Treatment and Diagnosis of Mud Fever in Horses and Ponies