(Image source: Your Horse)
During winter and early spring, with cold and wet weather it is important to look out for the signs of mud fever on your horses and ponies. Mostly affecting the lower legs (pastern and heel area), it can result in painful sores and scabs which can in some extreme cases, make your horse lame.
- Horses that stand for hours in muddy, wet paddocks are most affected. This is where the disease thrives.
- It is slightly more common in horses with white socks, but can affect any horse of any colour.
- Shared equipment such as boots, wraps and grooming supplies can carry the mud fever disease. Good hygiene should prevent cross-contamination.
- Mud fever usually starts as a small red ulceration on the skin in the lower legs.
- This lesion can then grow and develop scaling with possible scabbing, hair loss and oozing.
- The first preventive measure against mud fever should be to rotate paddocks if they become too wet and muddy, keeping the horses from having to stand in the bad conditions.
- The horse should be kept in a dry, clean indoor stable with wood shavings for bedding to prevent moisture around the lower legs.
- The use of barrier cream may also be useful in blocking the lower legs from being exposed to moisture, examples include Mud Gard Ointment by NAF, Keratex Mud Shield Powder, Protection Plus Grease or Coat Gloss And Mud Repeller Spray.
- Move the horse away from any wet and muddy environment to somewhere clean and dry such as a stable.
- Be sure to use a disinfectant such as Hibiscrub to wash your hands before performing any treatment.
- Trim the hair around the affected area carefully with scissors or clippers, make sure not to irritate the skin any more than possible.
- You should clean the infected area with some diluted Hibiscrub solution and Veterinary Cotton Wool.
- Spray the affected area with Hypocare once it has been cleaned.
- Make sure to dry the legs thoroughly using paper towels.
- Once the affected area starts to heal, be sure to apply some barrier cream to prevent further infection/relapse.
- More serious infections will need the attention of your local vetinary professional.
If the mud fever infection isn’t taken care of the sores can become very difficult to heal, resulting in proud flesh, permanent hair loss, and in some more extreme cases, the need for skin grafts.