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Home:Equine Diseases: Equine Mud Fever


Synonyms: The equine disease of Mud Fever is also known as Rain scald (if infection affects the neck region), Scratches, Dew poisoning, Pastern dermatitis, Greasy heel.
Equine disease Mud Fever is caused by specific bacteria that invade open cuts in the skin. Constant exposure to wet muddy conditions of the soil causes the skin around the coronet, pastern and hocks to chap and thus mud fever sets in. Once Mud Fever, an equine disease, reaches the stage of open sores, opportunistic bacteria invade, causing infection. Their spores can survive in the soil for many years and are activated when mud becomes wet. So, damp and rainy wet seasons cause a significant increase in the incidences of equine disease mud fever.
Dermatophilus congolensis is the bacterium that is responsible for causing equine disease mud fever. The more exposed the area is, the higher the risk of developing equine mud fever. Horses with significant amounts of hair covering the pastern and hocks are less likely to get the equine disease of mud fever because it acts as an extra line of defence.


(Areas most affected by mud fever are the pastern and heel area on the horse’s leg)
• Crusty painful scabs and sores
• Swollen leg if the pathogen has invaded deeply
• Matted hair
• Exudates
• Stomach and neck region can also be affected – but not necessarily called mud fever
• Non-pigmented skin tends to be more severely affected
• Thick, creamy, white, yellow or greenish discharge (containing the causal organism) between the skin & overlying scab
• Raw, inflamed skin underneath lesions (very specific symptom of Mud fever)
• Possible lameness


• 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
• Photosensitisation


There is a higher risk or repeat attacks if there has already ready been once incidence of equine disease mud fever. 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 equine disease of mud fever. This may only be possible if the horse is removed from the wet and mud and kept stabled for some time.
However, if the equine disease mud fever 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, so these must be destroyed! The best course of treatment for mud fever is to clean the wound thoroughly with an antibacterial scrub and remove these scabs. Dry and clip to maintain absolute cleanliness and free of further infection. Then antibiotics must be administered to control this equine disease.
Using Bandages to help in the treatment of mud fever can be counter-productive because they provide a warm and moist environment – ideal for bacteria to multiply! So it is best not to cover the limbs of these horses because it worsens the mud fever infection. It could also force the infection to travel further up the limb. When mud fever has been eliminated it is imperative to maintain the area as much as possible until hair has grown back.