Mud fever is caused by the bacteria Dermatophilus congolensis pentrating healthy skin. This happens when the skin gets damaged – wet, muddy conditions can irritate, soften and break skin, hence the name ‘mud fever’. But it’s not just water that can trigger this nasty condition – abrasive surfaces like sand can irritate the skin, as can insect bites or boot rubs.
However, most owners see the mud fever arising when fields are wet or muddy – normally in winter months – and horses are standing around in these conditions for prolonged periods.
Follow Horse&Rider’s top tips for steering clear of mud fever…
1. Minimise the time your horse is standing in a wet, muddy field.
2. Check your horse’s legs regularly for signs of infection.
3. Apply a barrier cream before turnout or exercise
4. Special leg wraps can help keep your horse’s legs clean and dry when he’s in the field.
5. Supplements that promote healthy skin can be included in your horse’s normal feed.
6. There is much debate about whether to allow muddy legs to dry naturally before brushin off, or whether to wash them. But as a rule of thumb, if you let them dry then always use a soft brush to remove the dried mud, and if you decided to wash them, use a gentle stream of cold water and dry thoroughly afterwards.
Mud fever set in?
Then you need to be extra vigilant and keep it under control. As soon as you spot it, move your horse somewhere dry and carefully trim the affected area. If the legs are sore and swollen, call your vet immediately.
Treat mud-fever ridden legs daily as follows:
* Remove scabs with warm water and a little Hibiscrub
* Dry legs thoroughly. Using a towel to rub them dry might be uncomfortable for your horse, in which case a hairdryer will come in handy – just remember to use a circuit breaker.
* Apply a suitable ointment, which your vet will be able to recommend.
Try to keep the legs warm and dry at all times, which means either stabling him or fencing off muddy areas in the field. Exercise may be painful too, but gentle walking in-hand, on a clean, dry surface, can help circulation and encourage healing.