Mud fever is a very painful condition in horses which usually presents in the winter months when the ground is wet but has been seen a lot earlier this year because of the wet summer we have experienced.
Horses with mud fever get very painful, inflamed skin on their lower limbs. In mild cases they may loose the hair on the lower part of their legs. More severe cases get a crusty scab forming which can bleed when it is dislodged. Affected horses will stamp their feet and can become lame in the affected leg. If the infection starts to affect deeper structures, the leg can become swollen as a cellulitis develops.
Mud fever is caused by two bacterial infections called Staphylococcus and Dermatophilus which are often present on normal skin in very low quantities. When the numbers of Staphlococci increase, the disease can present. The bacteria will grow in mud, hence the name of the condition and its prevalence in the wet winter months.
Mud fever can be treated using antibacterial washes which are applied directly to the area and sometimes with antibiotics either given by mouth or by injection. Prevention of mud fever is all about avoiding exposure to the Dermatophilus and Staphylococcus bacteria by trying to avoid prolonged exposure to damp conditions and mud (easier said than done this year) and using barrier creams to prevent direct contact between the mud and the skin.