Mud fever is the name given to skin conditions found on horses’ legs. Mud fever includes a number of different types of skin conditions and is usually caused by bacteria found in muddy, wet conditions. Mud fever can lay dormant on your horses’ skin for an extended period of time and becomes active when it is exposed to wet conditions.
Mud fever can be recognized by matted areas of the skin that become crusty. There will also be a cut beneath the crusty skin. You will often notice discharge between the skin and scab in the affected area. Heat and swelling in the affected area is also a common symptom. Eventually, the condition will cause hair loss, inflammation of the skin, and cause lesions on the leg.
If you notice that your horse is showing signs of mud fever, it is best to contact your vet to find out exactly which condition you are dealing with. However, there are also some great home remedies that you can use to help reduce the inflammation and make your horse more comfortable
Preventing Mud Fever
If your horse is susceptible to mud fever or living in a damp/wet pasture full time, there are a few steps you can take to prevent your horse from getting mud fever in the first place.
- Allow your horses legs/feet to dry out. If your horse lives outside and is constantly in wet conditions, bring the horse in every now and then. This could be a stable, an arena, or anywhere with dry ground.
- When you bring them in, clean the mud off of their legs and feet.
- Once the horses legs are both dry and clean, apply an oil based cream that will act as a barrier against moisture. Vaseline is a great cream for this. However, you can also use baby oil or vegetable oil. (If you use baby oil, make sure you do a test on your horses skin as baby oil is known to cause allergies in some horses)
This method of prevention is recommended by St Boniface Equine Vets in the United Kingdom.
Keep it Dry!
Regardless of what treatment you choose to use to treat your horses mud fever, it is important to keep the area dry! Mud fever thrives in wet, muddy conditions so it is vital to ensure the affected area stays as dry as possible to help prevent the mud fever from getting any worse.
Clean with iodine
When you notice the mud fever, you can clean the affected area with iodine. It will kill the bacteria causing the mud fever and give the skin a chance to heal. However, Iodine does also kill the natural (good) bacteria on the skin.
Once you have properly washed the area with Iodine, dry the area thoroughly and add a cream such as honey cream to the area. This is to keep both the scab and skin soft. Next wrap your horses leg in a sock or bandage to keep the area dry and clean. Make sure you reapply the cream and bandage every day.
Aloe vera is used to soothe your horse’s skin. It doesn’t matter if you use aloe vera spray or gel. Regardless of the type you use, applying this natural product will give your horse some relief against the itchiness of mud fever (it’s also a great treatment for sunburn on horses!)
Some people also say that feeding your horse aloe vera liquid will improve your horse’s natural immune response and increase their healing abilities. They say it is especially useful to promote health in their digestive system. If you choose to try feeding your horse aloe vera, make sure it is a non-latex product. It would be best to purchase the aloe vera product from your usual horse food supplier to ensure you have a horse safe version.
Researchers have found that “Aloe vera, well known for cytoprotective and mucus-stimulatory effects, is found to be efficient in protecting the gastrointestinal tract against ulcers or other disorders on administering as a dietary supplement to equines, but the extent of effect depends on the dosage and extent of supplementation” but less research has been done to research the effects of Aloe Vera feed supplements on skin conditions.
Wash with Hibiscrub and Warm Water
Mud Fever can also be treated with Hibiscrub. You will need to wash the affected leg with a diluted solution of Hibiscrub (0.1% is our recommendation). Once you have washed the leg with the diluted solution, thoroughly rinse the solution off with clean, warm water. You will then need to thoroughly dry the leg.
Once you have cleaned, rinsed and dried the area, it is time to add your barrier cream to prevent further bacteria. Anti-bacterial cream is preferred but you could also use a barrier cream like vasoline (as we discussed earlier in the article). If you have a stable to keep the horse inside overnight, cover the area with a bandage to keep it clean and dry. Leave the bandage overnight.
In the morning, remove any of the loose scabs (your horse may not like this so be careful). Add another layer of barrier cream, leaving the bandage off for the day, you can let your horse out to pasture for this part. The cream should help prevent any additional bacteria from getting in. Repeat this whole process every day until all scabs have been removed. Make sure you keep using the barrier cream every day until the wound is completely healed to prevent further infections.
Final Thoughts on Preventing Mud Fever in Horses
Remember, the best way to treat mud fever is to prevent it. However, no matter what we do, sometimes, it just can’t be helped. If your horse does develop symptoms, ensure you keep your horse’s legs clean and dry to prevent the infection from getting worse. Hopefully, with one of our home remedies listed above, you can get on top of this condition quickly. However, if the mud fever doesn’t appear to be getting better or is getting worse, you may need to call your vet for a medicated remedy.