Treatment & Prevention Of Mud Fever In Horses
It is important that horse owners are on the lookout for any signs of mud fever during the winter months as it can be a particularly difficult and painful disease in horses. During prolonged periods of wet weather, when a horses legs are both wet and muddy, is when they are most susceptible to mud fever. Anything which breaks the skin such as a small cut or wound can allow the mud fever bacteria to invade. For this reason muddy conditions are not always necessary for mud fever to occur and it is not an easy condition to prevent.
Mud fever is a common condition that affects many horses that live or work in wet and muddy conditions which during the winter months can be unavoidable. The disease is normally caused by the bacterium, Dermatophilus Congolensis which lives in the soil. If this bacteria is able to penetrate the skin, either through a wound or due to maceration of the skin it can cause a nasty infection resulting in scabby exudative lesions which can be very painful and will need treatment.
Identifying mud fever in horses
You need to be able to recognise the signs and identify the underlying causes in order to be able to successfully manage the condition and to try and prevent mud fever from affecting your horse in the future. Mud fever in horses appears in various forms and it is not only horses that are paddling knee deep in mud that are at risk.
In the general you will notice the first sign of mud fever around the pastern area, due to it being most exposed to the wet. This is where small crusty scabs will appear. Mud fever generally affects the lower legs but in more severe cases it can spread above the knees and hocks and even onto the belly in some cases. Horses with white legs and pink skin are more prone to mud fever.
The inflamed area of the skin can discharge a serum which will lead to matting of the hair producing a rough and ungroomed appearance. In more severe cases the skin at the back of pastern can split producing horizontal cracks commonly referred to as ‘cracked heels’. It is these areas of damaged skin that infection can spread to and cause severe lameness.
Mud fever treatment
Once mud fever has been identified keeping the skin clean and dry should be the basis of treating the condition. In order for any treatment to be effective and prevent any further mud fever developing it may be that it is only possible to keep any infected areas dry if the horse is removed from the wet and muddy conditions and kept stabled.
When treating mud fever in horses the hair on the leg needs to be clipped and legs thoroughly cleaned. In order to soften the scabs, an antibacterial shampoo or solution should be applied, before an attempt is made at removing them. Ensure that the leg is thoroughly dried. Then a mud fever treatment or antibiotic cream can then be applied to the infected area. The infected area should then be ideally dressed with a carbon activated silver impregnated dressing such as those available from FABtek in their Meditek line of products which utilise Zoraflex technology. If the leg has swollen and lameness is present then antibiotic and anti inflammatory treatment may be needed. If in doubt ask your vet.
Preventing mud fever
Prevention is better than cure! But the prevention of mud fever in horses can be difficult. In order to prevent mud fever horses should be brought in periodically to allow the legs to dry off completely and any mud brushed off. There are numerous treatments available from soothing ointments to gels and creams some of which will contain antibiotics. Small nicks and cuts should be treated quickly with an antiseptic cream and a barrier cream maybe applied to protect the skin from excessive wetting.
As well as dressings that utilise Zoraflex technology FABtek also have a line of products called MUDtek which includes Pastern wraps, Bandage wraps and stable boots. These specialist products should definitely be considered when trying to prevent mud fever due to the antibacterial and healing properties provided by the Zoraflex technology and silver impregnation. Silver ions are affective against a wide range of bacteria including most of those involved in the mud fever complex.They are also effective against some of the fungi involved.
To read more about Zoraflex technology and see how FABtek are using it in their range of products please follow the links below. FABteks products are recommended and used by vets.