Managing mud fever

Managing mud fever

Winter means wet, muddy conditions and the threat of mud fever. As with most problems, prevention is better than a cure, particularly as, once your horse has had mud fever once, he’s more likely to get it again.

What is mud fever?

The bacteria that cause mud fever (Dermatophilus congolensis) commonly live on your horse’s skin without causing any problems. However, prolonged time spent in damp, muddy conditions can compromise the skin’s barriers, allowing the bacteria to penetrate. The result is an acute inflammatory reaction, usually found in the heel bulbs and the back of the pasterns. Symptoms include crusty scabs, pus between the skin and scabs, lesions, hair loss, heat and swelling.

Top tips for preventing mud fever

  1. Limit the time your horse spends in muddy conditions. Fence off areas that get muddy, such as around gateways. Rotate paddocks avoid poaching and consider stabling your horse for a period of time each day to allow his legs to dry out.
  2. Specialist boots and leg wraps can help keep his legs clean in the field. These prevent excess exposure to moisture, as long as mud doesn’t get underneath and rub his skin. Wash them regularly to reduce the risk of infection.
  3. Apply a barrier cream to your horse’s clean, dry legs when he’s turned out to prevent moisture reaching his skin.
  4. Brushes, boots, bandages and clippers can all harbor bacteria, so clean and disinfect them regularly. Avoid sharing between horses, as this increases the risk of spread.

Treatment steps

If you notice your horse is showing signs of mud fever, here’s how to treat the infection and prevent the bacteria from spreading…

  1. Remove your horse from the cause of the infection, which will usually involve stabling him. If this is the case, walk him in-hand regularly to prevent his legs from swelling and increase blood circulation.
  2. Clip the infected area and use an antiseptic wash to soften and remove as many of the scabs as possible.
  3. Rinse the area and dry with a clean towel.
  4. Apply a topical antibacterial treatment to soothe the skin.
  5. Severe cases with obvious infection may require antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, so you may need to call your vet.

Did you know?

The same bacteria that cause mud fever can also cause rain scald. This infection tends to occur on your horse’s neck and along the top of his back ­– the areas that get the wettest when it rains. To prevent rain scald, make sure your horse is kitted out with a good-quality turnout rug and has access to adequate shelter.

Whatever you and your horse require, Bridleway is the place to shop this winter. Visit to see our great selection of products.