Mud Fever is a common condition that affects horses living or working in muddy conditions. The lower legs are commonly affected but in some cases the infection may extend to the skin around the tendons, the inner thigh and the belly.
In mild cases there are a few small, scabby areas of skin that require prompt attention before a more serious infection develops. In severe cases, larger areas of skin become inflamed. They exude serum which mats the hair in clumps and the skin becomes very sore. Often the horse is lame and the lower limbs may be swollen.
If the horse is constantly standing in a wet, muddy field, the legs become chapped. This leads to microbes found in the soil invading the skin and causing the infection. Brushing wet mud pushes bacteria into the pores of the skin which can also lead to infection.
The treatment of Mud Fever depends on the severity of the symptoms. In mild cases:
1. Remove the horse from the wet, muddy field and if possible bring it into a stable.
2. Clip the hair from around the affected area with curved scissors and gently remove all the scabs. It is necessary to remove the scabs to allow ointment direct contact with the affected skin.
3. Apply a soothing antibiotic ointment, eg. Dermobion, to the affected skin twice a day.
4. Apply stable bandages over clean gamgee to prevent bedding from sticking to the treated areas. If you have an empty stable with no bedding, the horse can stand for a few hours with no bandages during the day.
5. Exercise can be continued, but avoid wet, muddy areas.
In severe cases the legs become very swollen and sore, and your vet may prescribe a course of antibiotics to clear up the infection. Treat the horse using the following steps:
1. The horse must be brought into a clean, dry stable.
2. Clip the hair away and gently wash off the mud with warm water, cotton wool and an antibacterial soap.
3. Apply a warm Animalintex poultice which should be squeezed as dry as possible. This will draw out dirt and infection and the warmth will increase the blood supply to the damaged skin.
4. Remove the poultice, gently clean off the sticky residue and remove as many of the scabs as possible. This will obviously be very painful for the horse and the scabs may need to be removed in stages.
5. Dry the legs thoroughly and apply a soothing antibacterial ointment. Lightly bandage the legs using clean gamgee and stable bandages. Re-dress the legs once or twice per day until the infection clears up. When the exudation stops, leave the horse in a stable with no bedding and the legs unbandaged for a few hours during the day.
6. Gentle exercise in had helps to reduce the swelling.
To prevent Mud Fever:
1. Never brush wet mud into the horse's skin.
2. When cleaning horses brought in from a muddy field, wash the legs with a hose or sponge then dry thoroughly. Alternatively, if the mud is almost dry, apply stable bandages over straw to speed up the drying and brush the mud off later.
3. Apply Vaseline to the lower legs to act as a waterproofer and try to avoid leaving the horse standing in a wet, muddy field for excessive amounts of time.
4. Be very vigilant and inspect your horse's legs every day if it is prone to Mud Fever. Begin treatment at the first sign of infection.