Mud Fever in Horses

Mud Fever also known by its proper name – Pastern Dermatitis, refers to a wide variety of skin reactions caused from different irritants. This incredibly sore and uncomfortable skin reaction thrives in wet and muddy conditions.
With the British Winters becoming milder and wetter, mud fever is now a real concern for a number of horse owners.

The Causes of Mud Fever

Some soil types seem to predispose horses to these infections. This may explain why several animals on the same pasture become affected.

Other factors:

  • Constantly washing legs before and/or after work without fully drying them afterwards.
  • Standing in deep mud or soiled bedding.
  • Skin trauma, such as rubbing from overreach boots or incorrectly fitted bandages, chaffing from artificial surfaces such as sand or over-enthusiastic grooming.
  • Generally unhealthy skin or poor immune system.
  • White limbs or patches on the body possibly due to an associated photosensitisation issue.

Signs your horse may be suffering from Mud Fever

Generally it is easy to recognise and quite obvious to spot. You may see:

  • Scabby, broken skin often matted areas of hair with crusty scabs formed within it.
  • Depending on how bad you may see thick, creamy, white, yellowish discharge.
  • Heat, swelling and possible lameness can occur.
  • Mud Fever can often spread up the legs if left untreated. It can also occur on other parts of the body, ie, Rain Scald.
  • Eventual hair loss, leaving raw looking, inflamed skin underneath.

Mud Fever Treatment

Keeping the skin clean & dry is the basis of treating this condition. So potentially horses with bad cases could need to be stabled until fully healed.

Ideally the area needs to be free from scabs, should be washed, using a mild disinfectant such as surgical scrub or other medicated shampoos. Our fantastic advisors will be able to point you in the right direction.

And this must be rinsed well. Drying the limb thoroughly is vital. Once dry there are numerous creams, lotions & potions you can apply to help the healing process along but remember these must only be applied if the skin is completely clean & dry.

Bandaging can also be a good way to help keep the affected areas clean & dry, being cautious not to bandage too tightly. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatories may be required in some cases. So if you are concerned at any point seek veterinary attention.

Prevention is often better than cure, so in order to stop Mud Fever occurring in the first place:

  • Ensure bedding is clean & dry at all times.
  • Avoid over-washing.
  • If bandaging or putting on boots, ensure legs are clean.
  • If possible, rotate paddocks to avoid poaching or use electric fencing to block off any excessively muddy areas.
  • Consider using topical barrier creams.
  • Consider nutritional supplements for promoting healthy skin.

Be vigilant. The sooner you spot the first telltale signs of mud fever, the quicker you can take action and so prevent a lengthy and costly recovery.