Given the weather last winter many of you will have had experience with ‘Mud Fever’. It is caused by a mixture of bacterium, primarily Dermatophilus congolensis which is present in the soil. In some instances there can also be a fungal component. Under normal circumstance the skin has a protective layer preventing micro-organisms from penetrating but constant wetting of the skin and soil abrasion damages this layer and allows the bacteria to enter. Lesions often start as small red, hairless areas and can progress rapidly to extensive crusty/scabbed areas that ooze serum and can cause quite significant swelling up the leg.
When treating mud fever it is essential that you remove the scabs as early as possible as the bacteria live directly underneath them, you may be able to do this simply by clipping the area and then washing well with hibiscrub (leave the hibiscrub in contact with the skin for 5 minutes). If the scabs are persistent it can help to cover the area with sudocream or KY jelly and then wrap lightly with clingfilm for a couple of hours, this helps to soften the scabs and make them easier to remove when washing the leg afterwards. Once the scabs have all been removed dry the area thoroughly using a different towel for each leg to avoid spreading the infection. Once clean and dry apply an anti-bacterial cream such as flamazine sparingly to the area. In some circumstances the horse may need systemic antibiotics, but usually only in the most severe cases. It is essential to keep your horse in a dry stable/barn whilst treating the lesions. Also avoid putting any boots/bandages over the area as this creates a more hospitable environment for the bacteria. As it is a potentially contagious condition do not share grooming kit/tack between horses.
Once healed try to avoid your horses legs getting excessively wet/muddy and if they do be sure to wash and dry them well afterwards. Barrier creams such as udder cream or vaseline/liquid paraffin can help to protect from the mud but should be well washed off regularly or can cause irritation. If the above treatment doesn’t seem to be working or the lesions are getting worse then contact your vet as it may need additional treatment or may in fact not be mud fever!