Horse Owners Illness Guide : Mud Fever

All you need to know about Mud Fever


What is Mud Fever?

Mud Fever is a condition found in horses and ponies.  It is a skin condition found in the lower legs of horses and ponies which is caused by a mixture of bacteria or fungal species.  It is caused by horses standing in muddy, wet conditions for long periods of time.  A horse that has mud fever may have swollen legs but the most obvious signs are painful scabs and sores on the lower legs.  Unless treated quickly, mud fever can get worse until there is major hair loss, multiple weeping sores, lameness and in the worst case the horse may need skin grafts. 

When is mud fever most common?

Mud fever is caused by muddy wet conditions so is most common during the winter months e.g. between October and March. 

Is there a cure?

Mud fever can happen to any horse but those with white socks are considered to be particularly vulnerable.  The best way to keep your horse safe is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

How do I prevent mud fever from happening?

Mud fever is caused when a horse stands in mud or wet boggy conditions for long periods. 

If possible, fence off muddy areas of your fields with electric fencing to prevent the horses standing in them.  If you have multiple paddocks, consider rotating your horses around the paddocks to make sure that muddy trampled areas do not start to form. 

If your horse gets mud fever then washing their legs with an antiseptic shampoo is a great treatment, however too much washing of your horse's legs prevents the natural oils building up.  These natural oils repel water and help to keep the legs dry so by washing them away, you could end up allowing the condition to take hold.

Apply an oil based product to your horse's legs to help repel the mud and water.  There are plenty on the market including pig oil and a variety or barrier creams.

If you can afford it invest in a pair of turnout boots for your horses legs.  These will help to keep the mud and water away from the skin and prevent the mud fever from taking hold. 

How do I treat mud fever?

If your horse has mud fever, it is important that they are kept in a dry place to give their legs a chance to heal.  Usually the hair is clipped from the legs to make sure that there is nowhere for the bacteria to hide and scabs are softened using an antibacterial lotion or cream.  Once the scabs are removed the legs must be kept clean and dry to allow the skin to heal.    You must ensure that the legs are completely healed before the horse is allowed back out and every effort must be made to keep the horse out of muddy areas to prevent the condition from reoccurring. 


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