‘Mud fever’ a sight we are all too familiar with seeing at this time of year.

What is it? 
‘Mud fever’ is also know as greasy heels, cracked heels and pastern dermatitis.
It is a bacterial infection of the skin most frequently affecting the lower limbs in Winter and early Spring.

The combination of bacteria Dermatophillus congolensis, Staphylococcus and Pseudomonas are responsible for this condition. These are opportunistic bacteria meaning that under normal circumstances they live on the skin’s surface not causing any harm and feeding off of dead skin debris. When conditions become favourable and skin becomes compromised these bacteria can enter the skin and this is when problems arise.

Initial Case

What can be done?

Day 1 after Clip and Clean

How can I treat it?

The essence behind treating mud fever lies in treating any underlying disease, keeping limbs clean, dry and scab free!

Stabling removes your horse from the mud in turn protecting the skin from damp conditions and further skin damage.

Clipping allows you to visualise the lesions so they can be cleaned with dilute antibacterial solutions.

As the bacteria involved in mud fever struggle in the presence of oxygen, removing scabs and exposing the bacteria to the open air is key. It is often tempting to pick dry scabs but please refrain from doing so as firstly your horse won’t appreciate it and secondly picking leaves a bleeding wound underneath leading you back to the starting point of a skin abrasion and the cycle continues.

Instead, it is advisable to soak limbs initially with warm water and peel off any scabs that are ready to come off. Clean the limbs with dilute antibacterial wash in warm water. Towel dry with a clean towel and apply topical cream to the affected areas. This can be repeated on a daily basis.

Stable bandages can prove beneficial if legs are prepared correctly as above and not applied too tightly. Stable bandages must be clean and dry. Care must be taken as incorrect bandaging can be counterproductive.

Each case of mud fever is different and should be treated on an individual basis based on the above and your vet’s guidance. Should the lesions persist, limbs become more swollen or painful then please seek veterinary advice as your horse may need further veterinary attention.

What do I need? How can I prevent it?

24 Hours After 

How can I prevent my horse from getting ‘Mud Fever’?

As with many conditions prevention is better than cure so here is a list of tips to avoid mud fever on your yard:

  • Avoid overstocking paddocks and rotate fields
  • Fence off muddy gateways with electric fencing
  • Keep bedding clean and dry
  • Regularly disinfect equipment such as boots, bandages
  • If legs are washed make sure they are towel dried
  • If using waterproof turnout boots, stable bandages or brushing boots ensure limbs are cleaned and dry beforehand
  • Be vigilant for signs of underlying undiagnosed disease such as Cushing’s disease or photosensitisation as a result of liver disease

What will I need?

  • Stabling or mud free area
  • Clippers
  • Examination gloves
  • Cotton wool
  • Antibacterial wash – Hibiscrub 0.1% or Iodine scrub (diluted)
  • Warm water
  • Clean towels
  • Antibacterial cream – Silver sulphadiazine (Flamazine), Propylene Glycol (Dermisol)

Please contact the practice for more information on topical creams available and bandaging techniques.

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