Mud fever, also known as pastern dermatitis, is an infection of the skin of the lower legs of our horses.
It results in oozing scabs and raw areas of skin, typically at the back of the pastern but also higher up the leg. It is painful, can progress to swollen legs and lameness, and can be difficult to treat. Mud fever is caused by constant wetting and chilling of the skin of the lower legs, which allows an organism called Dermatophilus congoliensis to infect the skin, creating the scabs and lesions.
To help prevent your horse developing mud fever this winter, try to avoid letting your horse stand in areas of deep mud for long periods of time. Placing bark chippings or sand around gates and tracks can help. If your horse’s legs to become muddy, the best advice is to wrap or bandage on top of the mud, let the mud dry then brush it off. If you do wash your horse’s legs, make sure to dry them thoroughly afterwards.
There are many barrier creams and products on the market but as always, correct nutrition can help. Your horse’s skin relies upon a protective oily layer; ensuring your horse has plenty of essential fatty acids in their diet, from soya or rapeseed oil, can help. Vitamins, minerals and amino acids are used by the body to manufacture and repair skin, so a balanced diet is crucial. Even if your horse doesn’t need extra calories, giving him a high quality balancer will promote skin health. Similarly, antioxidants such as vitamins E and C are used in the body to ‘mop-up’ excess free radicals – the chemicals that can be associated with any disruption of skin health. Lastly, many owners believe that herbs, including Echinacea purpurea, garlic and nettle, help to support the skin’s natural immunity and protection.