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Tips for Mud Fever and Surviving Winter

What is Mud Fever?

Mud fever is a non-contagious skin condition caused by a bacteria (Dermatophilus Congolensis) that makes its way into the skin through micro-abrasions when the skin is damp or wet for extended periods of time. This can cause swelling, redness, heat and scabs and is usually found in the lower legs or on the belly.

Unfortunately, there are several factors that may make your horse more susceptible to mud fever as we all know some horses are serial offenders and contract mud fever every year, whilst others will happily wallow in the mud all day long without an issue


Risk Factors

  1. Horses that are stood in mud for extended periods of time without the ability to allow their legs to dry out

  2. Horses with white legs. The skin underneath is pink and more sensitive

  3. Over-washing your horse's legs, or legs that are not allowed to dry out

  4. Open wounds allow an easier passage into the body for bacteria to cause infection

  5. Non-native breeds of horse with "thinner skin" such as TBs, Arabs are often more susceptible

  6. Horses with health conditions that lower their immune system such as Cushing's Disease (PPID)


Preventing Mud Fever

As with most things, prevention is better than cure as legs already defected by mud fever often present with scabs or sores that allow more of the harmful bacteria into the skin.

  • Provide an area of hard standing to avoid your horse standing in mud for extended periods of time

  • Avoid overcrowding fields where possible

  • Poo pick regularly to avoid adding more bacteria to the wet ground

  • Avoid washing legs, it is better to let the mud dry and brush it off. If you do need to wash legs, use warm water and a towel to ensure that they dry quickly

  • Use a barrier cream or mud boots for horses prone to mud fever

  • Avoid feeding hay on the ground as it will decompose and add to the mud

  • Treat underlying issues such as mites and cuts accordingly

It is always tempting to wash your horse's legs off when you bring them in from the field at night but in most cases, it is best to allow the mud to dry and simply brush it off in the morning. If you do want to wash the mud away, use warm water where possible and always have a towel on hand to ensure that the legs are dry before putting your horse to bed. Alternatively, use mud boots such as the Woof ware mud fever turn out boots (See link below) or barrier cream to prevent mud from sticking to the legs


What to do with a Horse with Mud Fever

In an ideal world, if you are struggling to get the mud fever under control, it is best to keep your horse in a clean, dry environment.... mud free. It is also a good idea to ensure that your stable is kept as clean and dry as possible. But there are some horses that just need to be turned out in the day (I am a big believer that horses should have as much turnout as possible). In this case, think ahead. try to create an area of hard standing around gateways or water troughs with hardcore or mud control mats to allow your horse somewhere dry to stand.

Invest in mud fever boots like the ones linked above. This will prevent mud from coming into contact with the skin. It may be best to have two pairs so there is always dry pair to put on and the muddy pair can be rinsed off and dried.

If you cannot get the infection under control, contact your vet!

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