Dealing With Mud Fever

Harry Hall's charity partner World Horse Welfare have put together this helpful blog on mud fever and how to deal with it. If mud fever is a constant struggle for you - read on!


So, what is mud fever? The term can be used to refer to a wide range of skin conditions, properly known as pastern dermatitis. It can be caused by a variety of bacteria, which thrive in muddy, wet conditions. The infection can stay dormant in the horse’s skin and only become active when the surface is compromised, usually by prolonged exposure to wet conditions.

If a horse does get mud fever, the signs you may see are quite distinctive and include matted areas of skin containing crusty scabs, with lesions beneath. There is often a thick discharge between the skin and the overlying scab.

You may also notice heat and swelling, with the horse reacting to pressure or flexion of the affected limb. Eventually, hair loss can leave inflamed, raw-looking skin which may split open at the back of the leg in severe cases, creating the horizontal fissures characteristic of cracked heels.

It’s important to be sure that it is mud fever you’re dealing with so if your horse hasn’t had it before, call your vet so you can be certain your horse is receiving the correct treatment.

If you know your horse is prone, here's what you can do to help prevent mud fever:

  • Keep their legs as dry as possible
  • Check their legs daily for signs of change
  • Try to prevent your paddock from getting churned up as bacteria are transmitted in the soil
  • Change eating stations and moving water troughs if possible can help reduce muddy patches
  • Cover muddy patches with straw or sand
  • Use pig oil to help stop the mud from sticking
  • Treat as early as possible

If your best efforts don’t succeed, here's what you can do to help treat mud fever:

  • Keep their legs as dry as possible
  • Wash the affected leg(s) with water and a dilte Hibiscrub soltuion, make sure this is fully rinsed off with clean water
  • After washing be sure to dry the affected area
  • If your horse has thick feathers consider clipping them to wash the area properly, the Lister clippers would be perfect for this
  • Apply a coat of barrier cream, ideally antibacterial (remember to test a small patch of skin with any new cream for 24 hours first)
  • Stable your horse at night is possible to reduce time spent standing in mud
  • Apply barrier cream to your horse's clean legs before turnout 
  • Make sure you don’t reapply the barrier cream over the top without using a dilute Hibiscrub wash and removing the scabs.
  • Keep repeating this process until you have managed to loosen and remove all the scabs

Key points to remember when dealing with mud fever: 

  • The earlier you spot any infection the easier and quicker it should be to treat – so check your horse’s legs daily for signs
  • Keeping your horse’s legs dry is vital to treating mud fever successfully
  • Clipping out feathery legs will make it much easier to treat the problem
  • The Protechmasta Silveraid boots can help aid your horse's recovery
  • Purple spray can to help heal the broken skin
  • Removing scabs is key to starting the healing process
  • Effective use of a barrier cream prevents further infection and encourages healing
  • If in any doubt, call your vet!
Protechmasta Therapy RangeProtechmasta Therapy RangeProtechmasta Therapy RangeProtechmasta Therapy Range

To check out the full range of first aid and therapy products available at Harry Hall, click here

We've even categorised some of our products for wet weather and mud fever treatment, see here.