Treatment and Diagnosis of Mud Fever and
Cracked Heels in Horses
Mud fever in horses and ponies is also described as "Cracked Heels", "Greasy Heel",
Grease, Scratches, Rain Rot, "Mud Rash"and "Dew Poisoning" and Dermatophilosis.
Mud fever is a form of dermatitis or skin infection affecting horses which
by a micro-organism called Dermatophilous Congolensis which thrives in wet and muddy
Heels more commonly refers to the condition where it affects the
hollow of the pastern.
This form of equine dermatitis is caused when the bacterium penetrates
the skin either through a wound or as a result of the horses skin
due to mud or persistant moisture and dampness on the horse's skin.
Mud Fever/Cracked heels is characterised by scabs forming on the horse's legs that
may have swelling in the area surrounding the scabs.
The crusty scabs caused by mud fever stick to clumps or tufts of hair - when they are removed the matted hairs
come with them.
The skin under these clumps of hair is often inflamed and oozing
Mud fever can cause swelling in the pastern area of the leg and the horse or pony may be
It is possible that the mud fever can also lead to more serious infection
equine cellulitis which can be extremely painful for a horse or pony.
Treatment of Mud Fever
- If your horse or pony has a severe case of mud fever
- i.e. He has very swollen legs or is lame you should
seek advice from your veterinary surgeon who may prescribe Antibiotics
and/or Corticosteriod ointments nad possibly an anti-inflammatory
such as bute to reduce the pain.
- Remove the horse from wet muddy field conditions.
- Remove any matted crusts from the affected areas.
the crusts or scabs in warm soapy water will soften them and
make the procedure much less painful for the horse.
- When the crusts and scabs have been removed the affected skin
should be treated with an anti-bacterial solution , such as
Pevidine Hibiscrub, and then
left for 5 to 10 minutes.
- The treated area should then be rinsed then dried with a dry
A good method of drying the wounds and and outer
skin is to apply "rubbing alcohol" or "surgical
Ethanol is also effective and is less of an irritant
and also has antibacterial properties.
- Apply an antibacterial ointment together and also a moisture
repelling product such as vaseleine or baby oil.
- An Equine Corticosteriod ointment may also
be applied - get this from your vet.
- It is important, in addition to cleaning thoroughly, not to
cover the affected areas with ointments, etc. until the water
is forced out.
Otherwise the bacteria can thrive beneath in
the damp conditions locked in by the ointments or creams.
Prevention of Mud Fever and Cracked Heels
- The bacterium Dermatophilous Congolensis is a natural inhabitant of horse's skin.
Wet grass and muddy conditions provide the damp enviroment which cause an infection,
therefore its almost impossible to completely prevent a horse from getting Mud
However taking preventative measures can reduce the chances of a horse getting infected
with Mud Fever and reduce the severity of the symptoms.
Always make sure that the horse's pasterns and heels are cleaned
thoroughly and dried after exercise.
Clip any long hair and feathers but avoid clipping all of the horse's legs.
A good preventative remedy to try is to spray the legs , especially the back of
the pasterns, with a half and half mixture of vinegar and baby oil after washing
and drying drying.
The baby oil moisturises the skin and prevents it from cracking, the acidic vinegar
changes the pH value of the skin just enough to make conditions on the skin unfriendly
for the bacteria to grow.
Preparations like tea-tree oil and emu oil also have mild antiseptic properties
and can also be used to try to prevent and treat Mud Fever.
Use a feed supplement with a formula of herbs that help improve skin condition.
Treatment, Causes and Diagnosis of Mud Fever and Cracked Heels in