BEAT THE MUD! A NETTEX guide to mud fever

It’s autumn and our horses’ are starting to cast their sleek summer coats in preparation for winter , grazing and turnout conditions can also change rapidly with an unsettled climate . Skin problems can become more challenging when conditions are cold, wet and muddy and keeping horses clean and dry becomes difficult to manage and we can often get caught out. Mud fever is a common skin problem so we have put together a guide to help you understand what mud fever is, how you can treat it and crucially how it can be prevented. Nettex want to help you be prepared for any eventuality before the wet weather sets in

What is mud fever?

Mud fever is a bacterial skin infection affecting the lower legs caused by the bacteria Dermatophilus congolensis. The bacteria are unable to enter normal skin, however if skin is weakened through prolonged wetting, or damaged by a cut, rub, or trauma then the bacteria can enter and multiply starting an infection. White skin tends to be more sensitive, so is easier for the bacteria to get in.

Standing in muddy, wet conditions will weaken horses’ skin and provide these bacteria with the five star accommodation and conditions that they need to survive and breed, which is why when mud fever starts it can quickly worsen.

What are the signs of mud fever?

Mud fever is usually easily recognised as hair becomes matted and contains oozing, crusty yellowy scabs, which when removed have moist lesions underneath. There may also be a thick, creamy, white or yellow discharge. Mud fever causes an acute inflammatory reaction, so the skin will be reddened and warm.

Mud fever affects just the lower limbs. Rain scald is caused by the same bacteria and the symptoms are very similar, however the back and flanks are affected rather than the legs.

How can mud fever be treated?

Mud fever bacteria live under the scabs, as they need warm, moist conditions to breed. This means that to treat mud fever we need to start by gently removing the scabs. The legs then need to be dried, use paper towel to do this so that it can be thrown away and you won’t risk re-infecting your horse’s legs. An antibacterial formula can then be used to help get rid of the mud fever bacteria.  Your horse needs to be kept in clean, dry conditions and this process repeated daily until the mud fever has cleared up.

Mud fever bacteria can’t survive in clean, dry conditions, so with cleaning and a few days out of the wet the condition should quickly clear up. If mud fever is very severe or doesn’t resolve with simple treatment your vet should examine your horse.

How can you prevent mud fever?

Mud fever can be prevented by keeping your horse clean and dry and treating any cuts and grazes as soon as they occur. However, we don’t live in a perfect world, so most horses are exposed to muddy and wet conditions over winter.

The key to preventing mud fever is to prevent prolonged mud contact, minimise skin trauma and maintain healthy skin and a healthy immune system.

Preventing prolonged mud contact

Where horses are turned out in wet and muddy conditions paddock boots can be used to protect the legs from mud. However, they need careful attention to prevent rubbing and skin trauma.

Check out the Nettex Muddy Marvellous range to help support your winter skin care regime


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