Anyone who has ever battled with mud fever (pastern dermatitis) will know how persistent it is and how challenging to eradicate.
This really is one of those situations where prevention is the best form of cure.
What Is Mud Fever?
Mud fever is a common dermatological condition common in horses. It actually covers a range of conditions caused by bacteria.
The bacteria flourish in a wet and warm environment.
Sodden skin is far more prone to scratches and abrasions, which is the perfect entry point for the micro-organisms which causes mud fever, Dermatophilus Congolensis and Staphylococcus.
The micro-organisms, that could “normally” live on a horse without scratches or abrasions, penetrate the protective epidermal layer and that is when the problems start.
Mud Fever Symptoms
A horse with mud fever will have the following symptoms:
- Scabby and matted areas of skin
- Scratches and cuts beneath the affected area
- Thick scabs
- Raw, exposed skin once the scabs have fallen off
- Discharge oozing from underneath the scabs
- Cracking leaving horizontal splits
- Reaction to pressure
- Reaction if the leg is moved
Treatment For Mud Fever
Preventative Treatment For Mud Fever
As we said above, this is a condition where prevention is better than sure, and the most “natural” way to treat he condition is not to allow it occur in the first place.
This can be easier said than done, however, especially in these days of changing weather patterns and what seems to be increased levels of rainfall in the UK. We look at the treatment of the condition later in this article.
- If possible, stable your horse if you are expecting prolonged rain and muddy fields
- Keep your horses’ legs as dry as possible. Don’t fall into the trap of hosing off wet mud each night when the horse comes in as you permanently waterlog the skin and seriously contribute to the ease in which the bacteria can penetrate.
- If your horse comes in wet from the field, dry his legs by using leg wraps which you can take off later in the evening or next morning. Stable bandages with fibergee underneath are an alternative option
- Take care if you use straw for bedding. This can be abrasive and contribute to the problem
- Ensure that stables are regularly and thoroughly mucked out. Urine trapped in bedding, and hence a high amonia level, can also cause problems
- Use a proper barrier cream in the heel area before he is turned out which protects and is also medicated
- Clip any feather away. Long hair just remains wet next to the vulnerable skin and legs are much easier to keep dry if you can access the skin
- Check daily for any signs of mud fever and treat immediately and persistently twice daily if you discover any until the scabs and sores are completely absent
- Take care when applying boots and bandages. The boot or bandage should be very clean and free from irritants. It is very easy to leave sand from an arena in a bandage or boot, which then rubs against the skin, providing an entrance for bacteria.
What To Do If Your Horse Has Mud Fever
There is no “one size fits all” treatment for mud fever.
- Ensure preventative measures are in place
- Treat the actual condition – this could be bacterial or possible even mites
- Regular washing with an antibacterial soap such as Hibiscrub (diluted!)
- Application of antibacterial creme
- Ensure that the horses’ diet supports immune system, skin integrity and healing
Dietary supplementation can support skin integrity and is a specific weapon in the war against mud fever which has several fronts.
NAF’s product Mud Guard contains trace elements, vitamins and amino acids, to improve the diet such that natural healing is as efficient as possible
There are also natural supplements which could be considered. For example, garlic is known to have antibiotic and antiseptic qualities which can be used as an additional support to overall well-being