Apr 08

Mud Fever

With this prolonged wet weather, horse owners should be on the lookout for signs of mud fever, which affects horses lower legs. It is a common condition that affects horses living and working in wet muddy conditions. The skin over the pasterns and heels becomes infected, resulting in scabby or exudative lesions which can be very painful. Mud fever mainly occurs in the winter months with white limbs more susceptible.

Clinical signs of mud fever include mild skin irritation and infected sores which can be VERY painful. The disease can actually affect the whole body of the horse and is given different names depending on what part of the body it affects. When it occurs along a horses back that is kept outside without a rug, it is known as rain scald or rain rash.

Causes: There are many factors which can be divided into predisposing factors and infectious causes.

Predisposing factors include: The horses own genetic makeup – horses with feathers may be more prone to it, physical and chemical irritants which damage skin, environment and other infections such as ringworm/mites.

Infectious causes include: Bacteria such as Dermatophilus congolensis and Staphylococcus spp.

Environmental change, such as removing the horse from the cause – wet muddy fields, will decrease the risk. The horse should be stabled with clean, dry bedding. Straw may damage the skin so shavings are best.

Treating the lesions: The affected area should be clipped carefully, then an antiseptic wash, such as hibiscrub, should be used to remove as much skin debris as possible. The skin should be then gently rinsed and dried with clean tissue. There are many topical treatments to maintain hydration of the skin. Severe cases may need a long course of antibiotics.

Mud fever is a difficult condition to treat and it may take many weeks for lesions to heel. Some people find that applying a barrier cream helps prevent susceptible horses from the disease. Also protective boots and bandages may be used during turnout.

Dermatophilus congolensis can survive in crusts of scab and exudate for up to 3 years. Chronically infected animals are a source of soil contamination. Infection can be spread on shared grooming equipment, so be careful to sterilise them.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.tetheravets.co.uk/mud-fever/