Equestrian Blog

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How to prevent and treat Mud Fever

As winter seems to be fast approaching, we are all starting to think about the colder, wet weather and what effect this will have on our horses and their lifestyle. Our fields are beginning to become softer, and mud patches are developing especially in areas that receive a lot of traffic, eg gateways and around water troughs. These areas not only look unsightly but can harbour a bacterium that thrives in wet, muddy conditions; Dermatophilus Congolensis. Although you may not be familiar with this term, many horse owners will have seen the effect of the infection it can cause; Mud Fever. In drier weather conditions the horse's skin (epidermis) acts a barrier, stopping the bacterium from entering the system. With persistent, wet weather this waterproof layer of the horse's skin can become weakened, allowing the bacterium to penetrate the surface. Horses with a lot of feather can be particularly prone to this infection as the thick hair will remain damp for many hours providing the perfect conditions for the bacterium to thrive. Catch it early Mud fever is much easier to treat, if caught in the early stages. Closely monitor your horse's legs for any inflammation or reddening of the skin. This damaged skin can then develop weepy sores which will turn to scabs. If your horse is showing any of these signs it is essential that you remove them from the source straight away, wait until the legs are completely dry then remove all the mud with a soft brush. Clip the hair from the affected area as much as possible to allow you to clean the leg thoroughly, this will also speed the drying time of your horse's skin. Moisten the scabs using a diluted mix of antibaterial solution, then gently remove all traces of the scabs and dry the area thoroughly. But better still, Prevent It! The old adage of 'Prevention is better than Cure' is most definitely true for Mud Fever.
Try to keep your horse's legs as clean and dry as possible when they are in the stable. Allow mud to dry completely on your horse's leg and then brush off thoroughly, it may be advisable to remove any thick feathers by clipping the fetlock area, this allows better access to your horse's skin and will help prevent the hair harbouring mud and damp. Using a barrier cream can help to strengthen the skin's natural defence against bacteria. Apply to the whole area likely to come into contact with mud. Alternatively there are boots designed specifically to help prevent mud fever, covering from just below the knee or hock down to the vulnerable heel and coronary band. These need to fit your horse closely to prevent mud penetrating up the inside of the boot.  These boots are to prevent mud fever though and are not recommended for a horse already suffering from the condition.
Alternating paddocks to limit the traffic on the ground will help to prevent mud developing, fence off any areas which are particularly muddy, laying down hard core around gate and watering areas can help to prevent muddy patches. If the wet weather persists, it may be advisable to avoid turnout completely for a short while. This will allow the field time to recover and also mean your horse won't be exposed to the conditions likely to trigger Mud Fever. You will need to find a way of providing your horse with an alternative form of exercise each day though. Stable toys are also an excellent way of alleviating boredom if your horse does have to be stabled for longer than usual. With careful management and prompt action, mud fever should just be an ailment for you to constantly watch out for.

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