Mud fever is a collective name for scabs and wounds on the lower legs. Mud fever usually starts above the hoof and often extends over the lower legs if left untreated. Many people do not know that skin complaints called "mud fever" can have many different causes. Bacteria, mites, lice, fungi. And… each cause requires a different treatment!
Do yourself and your horse a favor and make a good diagnosis before you start treating the mud fever. Otherwise you will keep lubricating and washing and feeding supplements, but it will not help at all. The wrong treatment not only costs an unnecessary amount of money, it can even hinder recovery. Smearing the same cream on every type of mud fever is pointless and can even hinder recovery.
How occurs mud fever?
Under wet conditions and / or when a horse's resistance is less, bacteria, parasites and fungi can cause skin flakes, wounds and itching. A poor balance in the intestinal flora is often the cause of a reduced resistance. To help the intestinal flora, your horse must get enough roughage and not too many sugars from concentrates, for example. But also chronic stress, shedding or a disease can affect the immune system of your horse.
Read also: Forgotten cause in horse stomach ulcers: chronic stress!
Dry or wet mud fever?
A distinction is often made between dry and wet mud fever. With wet mud fever there are blisters and wound fluid, with a dry mud fever you mainly see skin flakes and cracks. Mites also cause flakes and scabs, often referred to as "dry mud fever". Based on how it looks, you can say something about the cause of mud fever, but not everything. If you suspect mites, your vet can take a scrape to check under the microscope, for example. If the mud fever is caused by bacteria, an antibiotic ointment can sometimes be a good idea. Your vet can also determine this. There is no point in using the mite approach if the mud fever is caused by bacteria or fungus - or vice versa.
Treating mud fever: general tips
A number of measures help against any type of mud fever. We list them briefly:
Shave (partially) the legs so that you can see and treat the skin damage better.
- Keep the legs dry.
- Wash the legs with a betadine shampoo, but leave the crusts on. If you scratch off the scabs, you will make the spot again and the skin will not be able to recover.
- Keep your horse's paddock, pasture and stable as clean and dry as possible.
- Clean leg protectors and brushes regularly.
- Support the resistance with Bering seawater concentrate and ensure that the horse gets enough omega-3. The highest natural source of this is salmon oil.
If your horse has white legs and especially in the spring and summer suffers from skin damage on the legs, apply sunscreen to the pastern cavities.
Mud fever by mites: take a total approach
Mites are persistent and if you suspect that your horse's "mud fever" is caused by these nasty parasites, then a comprehensive approach is inevitable. This consists of washing, good hygiene and feeding suitable supplements.
Read also: Seven steps for the effective treatment of mites in horses
There are two conditions that are sometimes confused with mud fever, but are more serious and require different treatment. Firstly, CPL, which is partly caused by malfunctioning lymph vessels in the subcutaneous tissue. It can be recognized by thick legs and ridges on the lower legs. The skin is less elastic there and moisture is not properly removed. Long-term moisture in the legs can lead to a variety of problems, such as an increased susceptibility to infections, scaling, thickening of the skin and scarring. CPL doesn't really have a cure, lymphatic massage and enough exercise can slow progress. An autoimmune disease, lower leg vasculitis, is also occasionally confused with mud fever. This condition is not yet well known and is characterized by painful ulcerated areas with crusts, which are mainly on the side of the cannon and pastern, where the classic mud fever often sits. Sunlight plays a role; it seems that white legs are more sensitive. Treatment of vasculitis is done with prednisone and / or antibiotics. If you suspect your horse of CPL or vasculitis, consult a vet.
Conclusion: First the cause and then the treatment
Does your horse have skin problems or mud fever on the lower legs? First find out what is going on! In many cases you will need the help of your vet. A bacteria or fungus requires a different approach than a mite infection. A dry environment is important for any type of mud fever. You can (partially) shave and wash the legs with betadine shampoo to clean them well and then treat with zinc sulfur ointment. Smearing the same cream on every type of mud fever is pointless and can even hinder recovery. Supplements such as Beringsea concentrate
can help improve your horse's resistance, support skin health with salmon oil
or make your horse less attractive to parasites such as mites.