Equine Mud Fever - Treatment & Prevention

14th November 2019

What is Mud Fever?

Mud fever, also known as greasy heels, cracked heels and pastern dermatitis is a skin infection on the lower limbs of the horse which is caused by a variety of bacteria that love the wet and muddy conditions of winter and early spring.

Three main bacteria are responsible for this equine dermatitis condition; Dermatophilosis Congolensis, Staphylococcus and Pseudomonas.
These bacteria live on the skin of the horse year round feeding off dead skin debris. Generally, they don’t cause any harm unless the skin is broken or compromised until wet and muddy conditions enable the bacteria’s to enter the skin and cause lesions.

Mud fever signs and symptoms include;
  1. Lesions in the skin around the lower limbs which scab over, often with a thick     discharge under the scab.
  2. Heat and swelling, the horse may react to pressure or flexing of the affected limb.
  3. Eventually hair loss can leave raw & inflamed looking skin which can split open at the back of the leg sometimes hence the cracked heel reference.
  4. It is important to note that if the horse has not had mud fever before and or there is any doubt regarding a horses condition, an Equine Vet should properly diagnose to ensure any underlying conditions are suitably treated.


Rain Scald

This skin condition can also affect the back and hindquarters of a horse and is known as Rain Scald.

What can you do to treat Mud Fever?

Treating mud fever is relatively straightforward and usually results in a full recovery.
When treating a horse with Mud Fever it is important to;

  1. Wash the affected area (s) with a warm, dilute of hibiscrub – 0.1% solution Is recommended – and rinse off with warm water.
  2. (It is important to use warm water and never apply neat hibiscrub to the horses skin)
  3. The affected area needs to be thoroughly dried, for horses with thick feathers it is good idea to clip them.
  4. The skin infection requires oxygen to continue so applying a thick coat of barrier cream to the affected area of the
  5. limb when it is clean and dry.
  6. The Barrier cream should then covered with a lightly wrapped stable bandage and it is preferable to stable
  7. the horse for the initial stages of treatment.
  8. The next day any scabs should be removed gently – it is important to only remove the scabs which
  9. are ready to come off without being picked as picking will leave a bleeding wound and the cycle of infection starts again.
  10. Instead it is best to repeat the warm water and dilute hibiscrub solution process again
  11. until all the scabs are ready to come off.
  12. Each horse should be treated individually and on the guidance of an Equine Vet.
  13. If the symptoms persist after treatment consult your Equine Vet for advice.


To help prevent Mud Fever

  1. Fence off excessively muddy areas such as gateways with electric fencing.
  2. Keep bedding clean & dry.
  3. If washing legs ensure they are thoroughly dried with a towel afterward.
  4. Regular disinfection of equipment used on legs such as leg bandages or boots.
  5. Avoid turning out onto muddy areas if possible during winter and early spring.
  6. Use straw or sand on muddy areas.
  7. Move water trough regularly in rotation.
  8. Use barrier cream prior to tutnout with caution.
  9. Be watch ful for underlying and undiagnosed disease such as cushings disease.


Equipment you may need

  1. Hibiscub Antibacterial solution
  2. Latex Gloves
  3. Clippers
  4. Warm Water Clean Towels
  5. Antibacterial Cream
  6. Barrier Cream