Mud Fever – Causes, Treatment & Prevention

mud fever, horses, muddy horse, rain scald, scratches

There is no getting away from it – winter is coming and soon the mud will return. Here is all you need to know about mud fever in horses…

The Cause of Mud Fever –

Mud Fever is caused by a bacteria called dermatophilus congolensis. This bacteria is also responsible for Rain Scald. The bacteria lives in soil and on the skin of our horses, but when the skin becomes weakened by continuous wet conditions, and if there are any small scratches and wounds, the bacteria can enter the body and cause an infection.

However, mud fever isn’t just a skin problem. The reason why some horses get it and others don’t is down to the immune system.  Some horses are more sensitive to the bacteria, and their body is less able to fight it off.  This may be a natural trait, or they may have other conditions which are putting the immune system under pressure (such as a dust allergy, cough, age, poor diet, hard training schedule etc). A poor immune system will make them more prone to  mud fever.


How to Treat Mud Fever –

The reason why Mud Fever is so difficult to treat is because you have to keep your horse out of the mud. Easier said than done! Most vets will tell you that you need to remove the scabs. The scab forms a nice little protective cover allowing the bacteria to thrive underneath. Removing the scabs is painful and whether you can do it or not depends on your horse. Applying  aqueous cream and then wrapping in cling film before bandaging will help to soften them.  Washing in medicated shampoo – and drying thoroughly, and then using Veterinary prescribed creams such as Flamazine are very effective.  It is also important to ensure that your horse is in optimum health to help him to naturally fight off the bacteria for himself. Feeding a supplement rich in anti-oxidants, Such as Skin Saver, will support the immune system and help maintain healthy skin.


How to Prevent Mud Fever

As mud fever is so difficult to treat, it is vital to try to prevent it from taking hold in the first place. You should do this from the outside AND the inside. Regularly checking the legs and pasterns is vital. Whether you should or shouldn’t wash the legs regularly is much debated. It may be best to dry the legs as quickly as possible and then gently brush the mud off.  There are many barrier creams and turnout boots on the market, but if the legs are not spotless underneath they could end up harbouring bacteria or even rubbing and weakening the skin further.   Feeding a balanced diet and a supplement to support the immune system and promote healthy skin may help to stop the condition from taking hold.


But what if you are doing everything and it still isn’t getting any better?

Mud Fever is similar to other conditions, and it is also very easy to get secondary infections. If you are not seeing an improvement contact your Vet. Conditions like vasculitis, mites and photosensitivity will produce similar symptoms but require a different treatment regime.