Mud fever is a common condition relating to pain, heat and inflammation of the skin of the lower limbs, mainly the pastern and heel. The disease is most often seen in the winter months and as its name suggests occurs when the horse is exposed to persistent wet, muddy conditions. It can also occur in a less severe form during the summer months where the heels have scabs and matted hair. The horse often resents the area being examined due to pain. Often legs with white markings are worst affected. There may be a genetic link to the condition, but the management of the horse has a significant contributing factor. Damage to the skin over time allows many different opportunist bacteria and fungi to enter and cause infection.
The aim of treatment must be to provide an environment on the skin within which bacteria are controlled.
Repeated regular washing and rubbing dry of affected limbs can cause further skin damage. It is often better to let the mud dry and gently brush off the dried material. Applying a barrier ointment or powder can prevent the legs becoming wet and infected if applied to dry legs prior to turnout.
Early recognition and treatment of mud fever is important in the control of this debilitating condition. Prognosis for each case is variable. Deep-seated infections will invariably take longer to treat and are more likely to flare-up again.