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Mud Fever


Mud FeverAt this time of year there is no shortage of rain and mud within the three counties in which we reside. For many reasons it is advisable to maintain some degree of field turnout during the winter months.  Many of you will be familiar with Mud Fever or ‘pastern dermatitis’ as an irritation of keeping horses out at grass when the going is good to soft, or just plain muddy.

You don’t have to spend too long filling water buckets during the cold, wet wintry days for your skin to become dry and raw.  Our horse’s exposure to the elements puts their skin under pressure.  Skin becoming wet and then drying results in surface trauma; breaking the skin’s natural barrier.  Once the skin’s defences are down opportunistic bacteria are able to move in and multiply. This superficial infection results in the heat, pain and swelling we associate with mud fever.

Mud FeverManaging Mud Fever

Mud fever varies significantly in severity and this guides’ treatment decisions.
Significant pain when examining the area, limb swelling that remains after exercise, lameness or open sores/wounds are all signs that veterinary involvement is required for resolution of the condition.

Milder cases can be managed as follows:
1. Removal of scabs and areas of matted hair. Sometimes this is not possible without soaking the scabs by bandaging overnight with a topical cream and a carefully applied cling-film layer and overlying stable wrap.
2. Once the scabs have been softened the skin should be carefully washed with very dilute chlorhexidine (1 teaspoon per litre of water) and then dried thoroughly.
3. Apply a barrier cream, such as our custom-made TCEH mud-fever ointment.
4. Consider how best to prevent another episode of mud fever.

Preventing Mud FeverMud Fever

  • As mud is unavoidable during the winter months, it’s best to avoid the amount of time your horse spends standing in muddy fields perhaps by rotating where he is fed, improving gateways or reducing the length of time he is out for.
  • Provide a physical barrier to the elements using either a neoprene wrap or cream.
  • If washing legs when horses are brought in from the field ensure they are dried afterwards. Alternatively allow the mud to dry and then brush off.
  • Ensure any turnout boots are clean and well-fitting.
  • Horses with uncontrolled Cushing’s disease (PPID) may be more likely to struggle with mud fever; talk to one of the vets at Three Counties Equine Hospital if you think this might be the case.

Published with permission from Three Counties Equine Hospital LLP
Stratford Bridge, Ripple, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, GL20 6HE.
Tel. 01684 592099.

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