Mud Fever & Rain scald
RainScald & Mud Fever
As we get deeper into autumn, theever-present threat of rain scald and mud fever becomes a reality formany. Mud fever tends to flare up whenthe weather is at its worst, to add to the work load that shorter days andwintry weather brings to horse owners lives.
Some horses seem more pronethan others, and it seems to be common on white hair or feathered horses.
If conditions are such that skin starts tosoften or break, such as standing in wet conditions, or if skin is oftenirritated or rubbed, horses become much more susceptible. Dirty brushing boots,allergies, insect bites and rubs are all factors. Look out as well forprimary skin infections such as ringworm or sweet itch, as breakages in theskin can allow a secondary infection in. In these cases, the initial causemust be treated, otherwise the problem will keep reoccurring.
In these types of situations, infection canenter under the skin through the cracks, which leads to the telltale scabbycondition known as mud fever. Common bacteria that can cause thiscondition include Dermatophilus congolensis and Staphylococcus spp.
Mud fever is usually easy to spot,consisting of irritated and sometimes very painful and infected sores. Thecoat often has a raised un-groomed appearance, caused by the formation of crustyscabs that then ooze. In particularly bad cases big cracks can appear at theback of the pastern. If it happens on the back or neck, it is known asrain scald
Treatment will depend on the severity andthe cause. The initial cause must always be sorted first to prevent relapses. Often,if environmental issues are to blame, the horse has to be moved from thatenvironment, which generally means stabling. If not badly lame, walkingout followed by regular exercise will stop any swelling occurring.
The scabs will next need to betreated. Trim away any excess hair and wash with a quality antiseptic ordisinfectant, such as Aqueos. The aim is to remove as many scabs as possibleand the wash should soften this process. However, it can be very painful, sotake care with this step.
It is important to keep the wound as dry aspossible – remember, if the skin is damp and soft, infection caninvade. Dry it really gently, avoiding rubbing (which will hurt!)
Applying a topical cream, with antisepticand/or antibiotics, helps to soothe and keep the infection at bay. Treatit as an open wound and cover with a dressing to begin with, to keep clean andinfection free.
It’s a good idea, though, to allow the airto get to the wound for an hour or so, to help it breathe and heal. Makesure if you are doing this that the area the horse is standing in is clean andempty. Keep treating the area accordingly until the wound starts toheal. Severe infection may need a course of antibiotics and pain killingdrugs.
Prevention is easier than cure. Somepeople swear by using a barrier cream – such as Vaseline – but the leg must bevery clean and dry, otherwise you may be trapping infection beneath the barriercream. Although difficult in winter, keep the horse away from muddy wetconditions. Boots and bandages are sometimes used during turnout toprotect from mud, but if mud squeezes beneath them, it can make the situationworse.
Keep the legs as dry as possible.
If hosing down, with a shampoo like Aqueosensure legs are dried well.