Mud Fever - Tips to Heal

November 29, 2022 407 view(s)

Mud Fever Getting You Down?

We’ve all been there when our seemingly healthy horse comes in from the pasture or out of their stall one morning with blown up legs. You immediately take a gander and feel around with your hands searching for heat or a cut, only to find a colony of scabs. The entire leg may or may not look like a balloon, but your heart feels like it’s about to burst. Though this is a common nuisance for horse owners, mud fever can be a pain to deal with and can lead to chronic skin issues.

So what is mud fever? Mud fever is a common name for pastern dermatitis. It is an infection caused by a group of bacteria that flourish in wet and muddy conditions. Mud fever is a loose term for a whole slew of skin reactions affecting the lower extremities of your horse. Mud fever can also be referred to as “greasy heels” or “cracked heels”, as the heels are usually the origin of the infection.

The mud fever causing bacterial organisms do just fine living on healthy equine skin causing little to no harm on its own. However, once a cut, scrape, or wound is present, the door has been opened for the bacterial organisms to climb their way into the layers of the skin. Once the skin has been injured or breeched by being too wet, a bite, or injury, the bacteria then multiple in the damp and warm skin causing an infection.


Mud Fever on the Heels

Causes


There are conditions that predispose horses to mud fever. Even certain soil types can make horses prone to mud fever. Some of other contributing factors are:

  • White limbs or white patches (may be due to photosensitivity)
  • Prolonged exposure to damp & muddy paddocks
  • Soiled bedding
  • Sweat that has not been properly removed
  • Not thoroughly drying the limbs when excessive washing is a constant occurrence
  • Feathered legs- mostly because they tend to be washed more than those without feathers
  • Injury resulting from rubs, bites, chaffing, excessive and rough grooming
  • Weak immune system compromising the integrity of the skin which is more than likely secondary to another underlying condition
  • Mites
  • Fungal infections
Signs


There are many tell tale signs of mud fever as well, as it can come in many forms:

  • Scabs beneath matted areas of hair
  • Once the hair and scab falls off, there are circular ulcerated lesions of moist and red skin
  • Discharges in a thick, creamy consistency, are usually white, yellow, or green color and found between the skin and scab
  • The scab will have a concave shape, with hair follicles protruding. Mud fever and rain rot/scald are the same thing just on different parts of the body.
  • Hair loss
  • Severe causes have been known to show the skin splitting in the back, thus the term cracked heels
  • Heat and swelling are typically present and can generate up to the knee or hock
  • In the most severe cases, lameness, loss of appetite, and depression are present
Treatment


The best preventative for mud fever is to keep the legs as dry as possible for as long as possible when there are wet and muddy conditions. Once mud fever has set in there are a few topical treatments that can be applied to help heal your horses skin. Take a look below for a few of our favorites:

Keratex Mud Shield Powder

This product helps guard against mud and water while disinfecting the skin. What is great about this product and makes it standout is that it is a powder. So rather than continually keeping the skin damp with promotes bacterial growth, this is a dry application that can be used as after it the legs have been shampooed and dried, or as a preventative on the way out to pasture.

Absorbine Fungasol

This is a great product line that includes a shampoo, spray, and ointment. Gently scrub the entire leg with the Fungasol shampoo and let it sit for about 7-10 minutes, so that it can kill all the bad bacteria. Then thoroughly dry the legs off, top with the Fungasol spray and apply the ointment where there are deep fissures.

Coat Defense

Coat defenseCoat defense

Coat Defense is a unique clay based formula that quickly treats mud fever/scratches, rain rot, insect bites, sun scald and other skin conditions. Many problems are solved in one application because the Paste is continuously drying any fungus and bacteria which requires moisture to breed and survive.

Shapley’s MTG Plus

Shapleys mtg plusShapleys mtg plus

The longtime favorite original formula MTG is now available as MTG Plus. The same formula as the original, but with a new herbal fragrance instead of the pungent scent of the original. This is a tried and true product that helps soothe the skin, promote hair growth, and provides a barrier as well.

Shires Mud Socks

Shires mud turnout bootsShires mud turnout boots

Turnout boots can also help prevent your horse from getting wounded out in the pasture. Any open wounds or sores leave your horse more exposed and prone to infection. We have several options starting with the Shires shown above to a more full coverage Woof Wear Mud Fever Turnout Boot or the LeMieux Turnout Boots.

Prevention

Preventing mud fever is your best defense to keep your horse suffering from this skin condition.

  • Rotating paddocks
  • Clean and dry bedding
  • Stalling your horse during treatment to keep it from reoccurring
  • Keep limbs dry in inclement weather
  • Keeping areas of the paddock dry where horses stand for long periods (hay feeders, gates)
  • Disinfect equipment
  • Detailed grooming so early signs are caught
  • Avoid over washing or rough grooming
  • Administer an immune support supplement if your horse is in poor condition
  • Spray legs prior to turn out with a medicated spray to provide a barrier on the legs


Fingers crossed we are able to get out of this winter and spring without mud fever dampening our parade! Still have questions? Feel free to call us at 800.321.2142 and we'll help you find the best product for you and your horse!

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