Mud Fever

Prevention & Cure

What is Mud Fever?

Mud Fever is a very common skin condition. It usually affects a horse's lower limbs, mainly the back pastern and heels of the horse, and sometimes the under belly and hindquarters. Horses with white legs, thin skins, or heavy horses with thick hairs on their pasterns are more susceptible.

Symptoms and cause

 Mud Fever looks like dried mud. The skin becomes inflamed, and crusty scabs appear, formed from oozing serum. It is caused by the invasion of the area by a bacteria called dermatophilus congolensis, which penetrates the skin following damage, or softening through exposure to the wet and mud. The bacterium thrives in wet muddy conditions, and is made worse by the series of mild, wet winters we have experienced in recent years.
Repeated immersion of a horse's legs in mud, or persistent wetting of the coat of a grazing horse, can result in infection, since the organism is able to attack when the horse's skin is very wet.

When the same condition occurs on the upper body it is referred to as Rain Scald.


Prevention is better than cure!  Mud Fever is often difficult and time-consuming to treat so prevention is the most sensible option.

Trim excess leg hair on heavy horses. This will allow air to circulate freely and keep the area dry.

Wet, muddy fields will make the problem worse. Protect your horse's legs from the wet and mud as much as possible, and apply a barrier cream. You should also check your horse's legs regularly, and at first signs of soreness, weeping or scabs, treat immediately with an effective mud fever treatment, to prevent the condition from getting worse.

Make sure that any over reach and brushing boots fit well and are not causing any rubbing, and check that the rugs fit correctly and are not causing the skin to become chaffed, thus allowing entry to small organisms.

If possible provide shelter for the horse whilst in the field.

When you bring your horse in from the field, try not to hose his legs but brush off the mud when dry. If you really have to use a hose make sure you dry your horse's legs thoroughly afterwards with a towel.

Try to avoid exercising your horse in muddy areas.


The skin must be prevented from coming into further contact with the wet or mud, whilst the condition is being treated.

All the scabs must be removed, so that the treatment can reach the skin.

The infection must then be treated with a product that attacks the bacteria.

Once the bacteria has been destroyed, the affected area must continue to be protected whilst new skin and hair grows.

From Vet Save

The Equine

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