Stop mud fever before it stops your horse

stop mud fever in horsesThe promise of snow covered scenes on the yard rarely lives up to the reality that horse owners experience each winter, and the resulting wet weather that our country is known for can lead to the debilitating complaint, Mud Fever.

As the name suggests, Mud Fever, or Pastern Dermatitis as it known in the veterinary world is brought on by wet conditions that our great country is renowned for. Mud Fever is actually caused by the micro-organism Dermatophilus Congolensis which enters softened skin that has been exposed to prolong wet conditions. The resulting infection can be complicated by other irritants in muddy fields and gateways, and if not caught quickly the condition can develop into a deep-seated infection that makes the horse both lame and systemically unwell.

Spotting the symptoms

Although we cannot control the weather, we can control its effect on our horses, and horse owners should examine their horse fully at least once a day, paying special attention to the pastern and the fetlock areas. The first signs of mud fever include a greasy, matted fetlock or patches of hair loss that can quickly become sore and scabbed lesions. If left untreated, or caught late, you may discover a thick, creamy discharge from beneath the lesions as well as heat and swelling to the lower limb area.

Are some horses more at risk?

It is thought that horses with white legs are more susceptible to developing mud fever due to their increased sensitivity, so ensure that you thoroughly check limbs that have white socks or stockings on them. Heavy fetlocks can create the perfect wet environment for bacteria to breed, and horses that already have a lower limb wound are at risk because the Dermatophilus organism has easy entry the skin.

Avoid turn out troubles

The key to stopping mud fever in its tracks is preventing it from happening in the first place, and the first priority as we enter the winter season is to keep your horse’s legs as clean and dry as possible. Unless stabled for a good portion of the day, most horses will be turned out and will therefore be exposed to wet weather. Make sure that your field has a warm, dry field shelter where horses can escape the elements and keep their feet out of the mud. If you do have problem areas in your field such as gateways and water troughs which can quickly become a quagmire, then why not tackle the issue ahead of time by investing in some hardcore or better still, hardstanding to counteract poor drainage.

Stable solutions

If you stable your horse during the winter months, when you bring him in from the field take care to wash off all mud from the legs, paying careful attention to the lower limbs, checking them for wounds, abrasions, sores or scabs. If your horse does have heavy fetlocks keep them trimmed closely to aid inspection. Once clean, thoroughly dry each leg with a clean towel, that is not shared with other horses, and stable in a well-ventilated stall with a warm, deep bed that will absorb any moisture and keep him as comfortable as possible.