Pastern dermatitis is more common in the feathered breeds but can affect any horses, ponies or donkeys. Horses are more at risk of mud fever if their legs are frequently washed or are stood for long periods in deep mud.
Red lesions that become scabby or oozy can extend from the pastern up to occasionally as high as the cannon bone and become more painful as they become more serious.
Mud fever was previously thought to be caused by one specific bacteria but nowadays multiple things are known to contribute to it, such as leg mites and small abrasions from bedding or sand, letting in other environmental bacteria and fungi.
So how to prevent it? Contrary to old schools of thought, not hosing a horse’s legs when it comes in from a muddy paddock is actually better for it, you can brush off the mud the next morning when dry.
Additionally, clipping long feathers will allow the leg to dry out quicker and discourage mites from infesting.
Rotating paddocks to avoid your horse standing in wet, muddy conditions is also preferential but we realise not always possible for everyone, especially with the recent weather!
I think my horse has got mud fever, what do I do now? If in doubt, it is always better to get the vet to check and get a correct diagnosis.
If not already done, clip off the horse’s feathers and clean the affected region at least once daily with dilute hibiscrub (chlorhexidine scrub) followed by drying the leg thoroughly.
The vet will likely prescribe you our specially formulated Mud Fever Cream, although you can also try flamazine.
My horse repeatedly gets mud fever… Horses that are immunosuppressed are at a much higher risk of picking up infections and that goes for pastern dermatitis as well.
If you find your horse keeps getting affected and is 15+ years old, it might be worth testing for Cushing ’s disease.