The bacterium that causes this condition lives in soil as spores and invades softened, chapped, or damaged skin around the coronary band, heels or lower limb. The bacteria thrive in wet conditions which is why it is more common during the winter months.
They cannot attack healthy skin, however the bacteria will penetrate any small wound or cut at any time of the year. Horses with white or hairless pasterns and lower limbs are particularly vulnerable as the pink skin is more prone to chapping and has a less efficient barrier to the infection. Horses and ponies with heavy feathers may also suffer as the hair becomes clogged up with mud and remains wet, softening the skin underneath.
The early stages of mud fever are matted hair clumps and crusty scabs. As the disease progresses the wound will become more visible, the scabs will multiply and begin to weep, often causing swelling and sometimes lameness.
Prevention is always better than cure, the importance of regular thorough inspection of the horses legs and heels is vital to detect any scabs at the earliest phase.
- Wash the infected area with an antibacterial wash.
- Work it in to a lather and leave for a few minutes.
- Rinse off with tepid water removing any tufty hair and scabs.
- Dry the area thoroughly with a clean soft towel, do not over rub as this may damage the skin.
- Liberally apply sulphur powder, this will dry the area and act as an antiseptic.
- In severe cases the veterinarian may suggest an antibiotic course.
There are many antibacterial creams and ointments available however the most important treatment is the cleaning and more importantly the drying of the legs.
Bandaging is not recommended as an alternative to thorough drying because they will only harbour the dampness but provide an environment for the bacteria to revel in.
In the wet and damp conditions during the winter months, keeping your horse out of mud is almost impossible however try not to over wet the legs and if stabled at night provide a dry deep bedding to help dry excessive mud. Check the heels and legs regularly and in some cases the under belly, for any scabs or rough patches and begin treatment immeadiately.
If you are unsure about any symptoms call the vet or farrier.
For more A-Z of Horse Ailments including Colic, Coughing, Laminitis, Leg wounds Read more