herd of horses running through mud. Mud fever in horses

How to Conquer Mud Fever in Horses


We’ve all heard the saying “April showers bring May flowers.” For many equestrians, it often goes more like “April showers bring mud fever.” 

Mud fever goes by many names. You may have heard this painful skin condition called scratches, dew poisoning, or greasy heel. Your vet will have referred to it as pastern dermatitis. No matter what you call it, mud fever in horses can cause significant issues, even lameness. While many equestrians think of it as a mild inconvenience, it’s crucial that treatment for mud fever in horses begins as early as possible. 

What is Mud Fever?

Mud fever in horses is a skin irritation that most commonly affects the pastern and fetlock area. Horses with this condition will develop scabby lesions that may leak fluid. The skin will appear red and irritated, as well as hot and sensitive to the touch. Severe cases will result in hair loss, thickening of the skin, and may even result in secondary infections such as cellulitis. 

Mud fever has numerous causes, many of which are commonly found in horse stables. This condition can be caused by a variety of bacteria and parasites. True to its name, mud is often a significant contributing factor.

Have you ever rubbed a piece of mud together between two fingers? You might notice that it has a gritty, almost sandpaper-like texture. This texture causes micro abrasions to develop on your horse’s legs, most notably the pastern which has a cup-like dip that holds onto mud. Have you ever noticed how your skin is softer and a bit waterlogged when you get out of the shower or bath? The same thing happens to horses who stand in wet conditions for an extended period of time. This makes them more likely to develop micro abrasions from the mud. Mud fever develops when bacteria enter the skin through these micro abrasions and set up shop. 

How to Prevent Mud Fever in Horses

The saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is accurate when it comes to treatment for mud fever in horses. The easiest way to treat mud fever is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. 

The first step to preventing mud fever in horses is to eliminate wet and muddy conditions. This can be a seriously difficult task, particularly for stables in rainy areas of the United States, such as Washington state or the Mid-Atlantic. Common solutions include stalling horses during the worst weather and installing gravel or similar materials that won’t decompose. 

tuffrider plastic curry comb for mud fever in horses

What is in horse owners’ control is how they groom their horses. Preventing mud fever in horses can really be as simple as being extra meticulous about how you clean your horse and using the right products. We recommend using the  TuffRider Plastic Curry Comb to clean the worst of the mud off your horse’s legs. This plastic curry is easily cleaned off, no matter how much mud is on it. The durable construction and anatomic design can really get into the pastern area and scrub off dried mud. 

Keep in mind that if your horse does have mud fever, you should NOT aggressively curry the area. This will only cause your horse pain and will not resolve the condition. However, currying the pastern thoroughly is a great way to prevent this condition from developing in the first place. 

TuffRider flex brush for preventing mud fever in horses

After currying, use the  TuffRider Flex Brush to remove the remaining debris. This brush has two joints that allow you to curve the brush with the palm of your hand. These joints allow it to flex and bend to easily get into the curve of the pastern and fetlock area to gently brush off the dirt and keep the area most at risk for mud fever clean. 

When the weather is warm enough, wash the mud off of your horse’s legs and clean them thoroughly. Sometimes soap and water is the best defense against the mud! To prevent excess water from sitting on their skin for too long and exacerbating the problem, dry the legs and pasterns thoroughly with a clean towel after bathing. 

Treatment for Mud Fever in Horses

Unfortunately, despite your best efforts, your horse may still get mud fever. This isn’t a reflection on the quality of your horsekeeping– sometimes our horses will develop mud fever no matter how hard we try to prevent it. 

If you’ve found your horse has this painful skin condition, it’s important to start treatment as soon as possible. Treatment for mud fever in horses doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. With the right products and a little bit of elbow grease, your horse can be back to optimal health soon enough.  

Start by carefully cleaning your horse’s legs. Remember, you don’t want to curry aggressively. Instead, gently remove any loose scabs and attempt to clean all the dirt and mud from the area, without irritating the skin further. If it’s warm enough, a great option is to give your horse a bath. The water pressure from the hose will remove loose scabs and dirt without exacerbating the problem. 

shampoo for treatment of mud fever in horses

Consider using a shampoo like the  Eqyss Micro-Tek Equine Shampoo. This shampoo has a maximum strength formula that helps fight fungal and bacterial skin conditions, plus it soothes red irritated skin on contact, making it ideal for treatment of mud fever in horses.

After bathing, be sure to dry your horse’s legs thoroughly with a clean towel. 

spray for treatment of mud fever in horses

Follow up with a product like the  Silver Honey Wound Repair Spray from Absorbine. This spray has been proven to stop 99.9 percent of bacteria to allow the body to heal faster. Plus, it stimulates the body’s own immune response to help fight mud fever naturally. Made from natural, medical grade ingredients, this wound spray will help to prevent secondary infections and promote growth of new, healthy tissue. 

Get the Tools You Need to Conquer Mud Fever in Horses

No matter how careful we are, sometimes our horses get skin conditions, like mud fever. Having the right tools on hand to start treatment fast can mean the difference between an uninterrupted springtime show season and a lame horse who needs a vet visit. Shop  Breeches.com to find all the horse care products you need at prices you want. 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.