Mud fever is caused by an organism called ‘Dermatophilus Congolensis’. This organism is a bacteria.
Mud fever affects most horses and ponies during winter and early spring, resulting in painful sores and scabs which in severe cases can make a horse lame. Mud fever most commonly affects the pastern and heel area but can also affect the upper leg, the belly, and in some cases the neck area (also known as Rain Scald). Non-pigmented skin tends to be more severely affected.
Under normal circumstances the skin acts as a protective barrier, preventing microorganisms from entering the horse's system and doing any damage. However, the integrity of the epidermis can become compromised through the abrasion of soil grit, sand or stable bedding on cold, wet skin. The continual wetting of the skin causes a breakdown of the protective barrier of the epidermis, allowing the bacterium to enter and cause infection.
Muddy conditions are not always necessary to cause mud fever. Anything, which breaks the skin, such as a scratch or graze, can allow bacteria access.
‘Dermatophilus congolensis’ lives in the soil and can survive from year to year. It can survive in crusts of scab and exudate for up to three-and-a-half years.
Chronically infected animals are a source of soil contamination.
CAUSES OF MUD FEVER:
- Invasive bacterium Dermatophilus Congolensis and sometimes Staphylococcus spp
- Chorioptic mange mites can cause secondary invasion of bacteria that leads to mud fever
- Fungal organisms (Dermatophytes)
- Contact dermatitis
PREVENTION AND TREATMENT OF MUD FEVER
There is a higher risk of repeat attacks if there has already been one incidence. Preventing mud fever is a lot easier than curing it, because you are not just curing one attack. You have to prepare to deal with many reoccurrences.
Mud fever can be prevented by following a few simple routines:
- Let mud dry and brush off legs instead of cleaning with water.
- Supplements will help promote healthy and stronger skin.
- The area must be dried thoroughly.
- Ensure clean and dry bedding.
- Inspect area on legs daily in order to catch any early signs of onset of mud fever.
- Keeping the skin clean and dry is the basis of treating the disease. This may only be possible if the horse is removed from infected paddocks and other equine.
- If the disease has taken hold, removing the crusts that harbour the infection is the most important thing. The bacteria will be embedded in the crust and will stay there continuing to cause infection.
- To treat the mud fever - clean the wound thoroughly with coconut oil or an antibacterial scrub, remove the scabs.
- Dry and clip the hair to ensure the wound stays clean, apply coconut oil topically to the wound two or three times a day, more if you have time.
- Never cover the wounds with bandages as the bacteria will multiply.
If the infection is particulary bad and is reoccurring, consult your veterinarian, a course of antibiotics may be necessary.
When mud fever has been eliminated it is imperative to maintain the area as much as possible until hair has grown back.
Sharing of grooming supplies, tack and horse-handler's hands can all serve as fomites, carrying the causative organism(s) from one individual to another. For this reason, mud fever should be considered a contagious disease, and general hygiene steps should be taken to limit cross-contamination.
Poor paddock rotation and shared grazing with infected animals can also transfer the bacteria.
COCONUT OIL AS AN ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT
Coconut oil is 100% pure and natural. The Lauric acid in coconut oil has anti-microbial, antifungal and anti-bacterial properties.
Coconut oil helps fight infection when used internally and externally, it aids digestion and promotes healthy skin and hair growth. When used topically it can be used to treat wounds and infections.
The anti-bacterial properties can help treat mud fever by treating the infection, keeping the wound clean and promoting new hair growth.
Mud fever is difficult to treat at the best of times and prevention is most definitely the answer. We recommend consultation with your veterinarian for specialist equine advice and health management.