The equine immune system is a complex system, during the fall the immune system is at risk of pathogens disturbing your horse’s health. The immune system is often compromised in the fall due to the shedding of the coat, the seasonal influences as well as the stress of spending more time in the stables. Wet weather enters the equation and your horse ends up spending more time on muddy soil. Its legs are exposed to a combination of mud, rain and urine which may result in mud fever. Horses with feathering are at increased risk of getting mud fever due to the scalding effect under all those hairs. However, don’t be fooled by the name mud fever as it is not confined to the fall; some horses get mud fever during summertime: a combination of feed containing irritants and dry, sunny days may result in mud fever as well. White legs tend to be more sensitive to mud fever.
Horses with a reduced immune system are more likely to end up with mud fever.
What exactly is mud fever? Its medical name is pastern dermatitis for a reason, because mud fever is the popular reference to skin irritations around the lower leg and pastern. Mud fever can have many causes. The external damage can be caused by chafing sand or mud, excessive washing, bacteria, fungi, or mite. It’s important to determine the cause of mud fever before treatment. A veterinarian can determine whether a bacteria, fungi or mange mites are the cause.
In dry shape, mud fever exposes itself with skin fissures, whereas wet mud fever distinguishes itself with moist skin fissures with thick crusts. Bacteria and fungi thrive in infected, moist areas. The itch that follows can cause horses to stomp their feet or brush their legs together. The infected areas can be extremely painful and sometimes become swollen. If the vet finds mite, it is important to treat the horse with a special wash prescribed by the vet. Keep using this wash according to the schedule given. In any case it is important to stable your horse in a clean and dry environment. Prevent wet pasterns and dry your horse thoroughly after showering or time in the pasture. You should reduce showers to a minimum if your horse is sensitive to mud fever and support rough and chapped dry pasterns with honey ointment
and wet pasterns with a zinc-sulphur ointment
Address the issue from the inside out
Mud fever is almost always the result of a reduced immune system, it is thus important to support the immune system to fight the mud fever. Support the equine immune system by feeding extra treats such as a daily mix of dried herbs with alfalfa
combined with a dash of omega fatty acids and add vitamins and minerals
to its feed. The immune system gets quite a shock during autumn so be sure to start feeding supplements in time. A detox
might prove especially beneficial with mud fever as it helps cleanse the body and it supports a healthy immune system. Additionally, a cleansed body responds better to feed, supplements and (herbal) medicines.
Whether or not you should clip the hairs around the pasterns is still a hot topic. One could argue it makes it easier to keep the area clean and dry, however as soon as hairs start to grow again this might cause an irritated and itchy skin. Make sure the stable is clean and keep your horse stabled during wet weather conditions. Leave crusts that might form around the pastern as this is an indication of the skin repairing itself.
It's important to treat sensitive pasterns from the inside out as well. Support a thin and chapped skin with thinned extracts of Salvia (Salvia officinalis, nettle leaf (Urtica dioica) and Sulphur
which can be administered orally.