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   Mud & Horse Mud Fever


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Horse Mud Fever




Mud fever is a common condition that affects horses living or working in wet, muddy conditions. The skin over the pasterns and heels becomes infected, resulting in scabby or exudative lesions which can be very painful.



Sometimes the infection extends to the skin further up the legs . White limbs are particularly susceptible and mud fever occurs mainly in the winter months. In fact, mud fever is not a single disease but a collection of clinical signs associated with a number of different causes. To manage the condition successfully, one needs to be able to recognise the signs and identify their underlying cause. Although very common, it appears in various forms and is not limited to horses that are literally paddling knee-deep in mud.

Mud fever can range from a mild skin irritation to very painful, infected sores. The disease can actually affect the whole body and is given different names depending on the part of the horse affected. When it occurs along the backs of horses that are kept outside without rugs, it is known as rain scald or rain rash.

Mud fever is the term used to describe the condition when it involves the lower limbs, most commonly the back of the pastern and the heels, where it is seen as crusty scabs. The inflamed skin may discharge serum, causing the hair to matt, giving the coat a rough, un-groomed appearance. With severe cases, the skin at the back of the pastern may split open, producing deep horizontal cracks, commonly called cracked heels. Infection can enter these areas of damaged skin, resulting in a hot, swollen and painful leg and cause severe lameness. In the summer months, a less severe but equally persistent form of the disease occurs. Firmly adherent scabs are found in the pastern and heel regions.

There are many treatments for mud fever. ( We recommend that you seek guidance from a qualified vet. ) It has to be remembered that with any condition for which there are a large number of possible treatments, it is often because nothing is a guaranteed to succeed !

The affected area should be carefully clipped, taking care not to traumatise the skin further. This may be done with clippers or a good pair of curved scissors.

Then use an antiseptic wash such as chlorhexidine (Hibiscrub) to remove as many of the unhealthy, crusty scabs as possible. You may need your vet to help by sedating the horse and giving painkillers.

Next, gently rinse and then blot the skin dry with clean, absorbent tissue. Rubbing it with a towel will be painful for the horse and could cause further damage to the skin. A hairdryer with a circuit breaker may be used, taking care not to burn the delicate skin.

                                    Mud can also cause other injuries , so  prevention is better than cure !

Riding in deep, sticky mud isn't a great idea and you should try to avoid it. Deep mud can twist delicate equine legs and possibly damage leg tendons and ligaments. Rain can turn even the best arena into a muddy swamp. If your arena gets really deep and sticky when it rains, give your horse the day off. If you must ride, stick to slower speeds so you don't strain your horse's legs.

A horse is more likely to overreach (strike his front heel with his hind hoof) when being ridden in mud, so put rubber overreach boots on him if you really must ride him in bad conditions. Overreach or bell boots will also help to keep his shoes on .

Eventers and Show Jumpers on grass often use studs (caulks) on muddy days. These are small pointy pieces of metal that screw into specially drilled holes in a horse's shoe. They help the horse's shoes grip the ground so he can stay balanced when jumping and so he doesn't slip around so much on the mud. It takes some practice to screw in studs, so don't try them for the first time at a show.

If you've ridden in muddy conditions, it's essential that you hose off your horse's legs and dry them with a clean towel. If it's really cold and you don't want to hose him, put him in a stall for a while until the mud on his legs dries and you can brush it off with a dandy brush. Always pick out your horse's hooves after riding in mud. Sharp rocks can get stuck in muddy hooves, and rocks can cause stone bruises and abscesses.

You probably can't do much about the mud in your fields, that's the owner's responsibility. But if your horse lives in a small pen, you should shovel out wet patches and replace them with dry bedding. There are lots of absorbent beddings around. Look for them at your local feed or tack shop.



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