What is Mud Fever?

Mud Fever AKA Scratches!
What is that?!


Oh Yay, Oh yay! TBL Readers!

I want to reacquaint you with a time-honored horse health favorite Mud Fever!
I know, I had to look it up again because I thought it was something new! But it’s not. The disease actually has several names:  Greasy heel, Dew poisoning, but we know it in the US as Scratches.  Oh, yes! That again!

It’s not uncommon. And often seen in the winter and spring when it’s cold, windy and rainy. I know every horse owner has seen it at some point! Picture this, you’re in your pasture, hiking out to catch your horse and you realize that your wellies/mud boots are 2 feet deep in mud! Now. If you have difficulty pulling your boots out of the thick muddy sludge? Just imagine what your horse standing in it for a few hours or so letting the bacteria in the mud imbed itself into cuts or raw areas of the pastern and heel area. (Can also affect the upper leg, the belly, and in some cases the neck area (also known as Rain Scald)

Called “pastern dermatitis” by vets, this is a diagnosis of a skin infections/reactions in the pasterns of horses. Caused by many irritants but mainly by an infectious agent called dermatophilus congolensis, which thrives in muddy wet conditions.

Interesting note: Non-pigmented skin tends to be more severely affected.

What to look for?

  • Small red ulceration of the skin in the plantar pastern region of the legs becomes inflamed and thickened.
  • Lesions that grow and develop scaling with the formation of a crust (scabs)
  • Hair loss, edema, oozing and the release of a malodorous exudate (white puss discharge)
  • Lameness in your horse (for severe cases)

So how do we treat it?

  1. Keep your horse (if you can) out of the mud and or their stall clean and dry
  2. Use pasture rotation (if available) to keep your horses feet from standing in/on muddy ground
  3. Avoid using leg wraps or any items that would retain moisture 
  4. Clip hair around infected area 
  5. Use an Hibiscrub (chlorhexidine) antibacterial treatment with antifungal properties. This should be diluted. The ideal dilution is 0.1%
  6. Scabs should be soaked and gently removed warm water and a mild soap or natural mild shampoo
  7. The area should be patted dry 
  8. Systemic Therapy (only for most severe cases and with supervision of a veterinarian )

Further reading: