Mud fever, scratches, dew poisoning, and greasy heel are all names for one condition caused by bacterium known as dermatophilus congolensis. The characteristics of this disease are scabby, oozing, ulcerations that create raised patches in the fur and raw patches when pulled off.
Typically these are found on the back of the pastern or fetlocks and can be seen on the belly as well. It often affects white legs more then others.
Two conditions are required for your horse to have mud fever.
1. Constant wetness
2. Abrasions or cuts for the condition to get a hold on an area. Might even be a small scrape that goes unnoticed.
Left untreated the skin will crack and become very painful and may even cause lameness. It also poses serious risk of secondary infections or a systemic infection which can permanently damage the horse.
Early signs of mud fever can easily be overlooked and may even resemble a bit of mud stuck to the fur. The lesions are often 2- 8 mm in a raised circular patch.
It is important to rule out dermatitis or a fungal infection before deciding your horse has this disease. Check the horse to see if there are other areas affected. If there are patches around the mouth then it might be photosensitivity. If there are patches all over the body then fungus is involved.
Signs to determine if it is mud fever:
How hard is the mud to get off?
Does the hair out leaving a raw patch after?
If the answer is YES then treatment is best done immediately to prevent the condition from becoming worse.
If the legs are hot and swollen then there is a deeper infection involved and the vet should be called to consult.
If the environment is conducive to scratches and there are no other symptoms then treatment for scratches may be in order.
The more firmly established the harder it is to eliminate. However, the condition is known the world over and hundreds of potential treatments are out there. That being said, early detection is the key to getting a jump on the condition.
Methods of Treatment
Clip horses legs,
wash the affected area thoroughly with an antibacterial scrub,
remove the scabs as gently as possible
treat with a mud fever antibiotic cream twice daily.
Clip out long hair on the heels with scissors to avoid the risk of abrading the skin with clippers to expose the area to the air.
Apply an antibiotic antifungal preparation (such as Gentanicin sulfate and tribessen) twice a day to affected area.
Remove scabs only when they are ready after applying the cream so they are softened up.
Do not wash the area daily as it weakens the skin of natural oils and spreads the bacteria, which loves wet conditions.
Once a week a cold salt water wash can be used to get rid of any dried blood or pus in more serious cases.
Dry the area thoroughly, use a blow dryer on warm setting if the horse will stand for it.
If it does not clear up with method #2 then continue with Method #2 but apply a short course of antibiotics.
If the antibiotic course does not work right away then it probably wont work and should be halted to prevent lowering the horse overall resistance.
A Vaseline type steroid cream can be next used to try and clear up the ulcers.
Antibiotic shot in the muscle.
Wash hands thoroughly after treatment as these bacteria can spread to humans.
Exercise the horse unless they are lame
Excercise helps circulation to the area and speeds healing.
Put the horse in every night on dry clean shavings as this also has a drying effect.
If they must be out then try BAG BALM (udder cream)
This condition is more apt to affect horses under stress or with a lower immune system, so proper maintenance schedules will help to reduce the occurrence of scratches.
The best option is to stable horses on clean dry shavings (which has more drying capacity then straw) every night during the muddy season.
If this is not possible, the next best option is to dry off the legs every day and brush off the mud.
Putting on a barrier cream such as Udder balm on horses prone to scratches is an effective method of prevention
If Scratches is present then do not use udder balm as it will provide anaerobic environment.
Do not cover the affected area as it should be exposed to air in order to heal.
The bacteria is also very contagious so that all boots, brushes and rags that come in contact with it should be washed with an antibacterial, antifungal preparation before coming into contact with another horse.
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