Is your horse suffering from skin infections?  There are millions of bacteria living in the mud around your barn and pasture… bacteria that is thriving in autumn rains and causing the muddy weather condition called Mud Rash or Mud Fever. By knowing how to deal with this unfortunate equine skin infection, your horse will be on the road to recovery before the ground dries.

Many parts of the country have become all too familiar with the post-summer rain showers. The rain turns to thick mud that covers our pastures and harbors infectious bacteria that affect our horses’ health. One of these bacteria, Pastern Dermatitis, can create harmful issues within our horses’ skin if left untreated. This is why the next focus in our series on mud-related problems will confront this condition and tell you everything you need to know when battling Mud Rash Skin Infection in Horses.

  1. Mud RashCauses: Mud Fever, sometimes referred to as Mud Rash, is caused by a bacteria that identifies as Pastern Dermatitis. It infects a horse where the skin is broken, like from a cut or sore, and then spreads rapidly, infecting the area. It thrives in the moist, muddy conditions that are common this time of year. Mud isn’t the only source of the infection, however. Horses that suffer from excessive sweating and easily irritated skin are more at risk for Mud Fever because their skin is in weaker condition. Same goes for horses whose legs are left wet after being rinsed off. The skin becomes softened when it is not dried off properly and therefore, is more susceptible to contract this equine bacterial infection. These wet-related issues are similar to when a horse stands in muddy pastures for prolonged periods of time and the skin doesn’t get to dry completely.
  2. What to Look For: The key to confronting Mud Rash is to catch it before it develops too far. Watch for mud clumps around the horse heels as well as other signs to determine whether your horse could be in danger of Mud Rash. Take notice if you see an area of your horse’s leg that is matted with hair and thick scabs. This matting could be hiding a pale green colored discharge between the layer of skin and the scab. In more serious cases, the surrounding area will be suffering from hair loss and the skin will be noticeably raw. In extreme cases of Mud Rash, there will be advanced infections, the heel area will be warm to the touch, and lameness could appear. Extreme Mud Rash can be accompanied by a loss of appetite. If you notice these symptoms in your horse, we recommend you call an equine specialist or your local veterinary practitioner.
  3. Solutions and Treatments: The most successful treatment for Mud Rash involves removing the scabs and then properly cleansing the infected area. In order to do this, you will need to soak the scabs with a poultice bandage to loosen them up before removing them. The removal of the scabs can be painful for your horse so use caution and make sure the infected area has been thoroughly saturated first. When the sores have been moistened enough, carefully peel them away from your horse. After this step has been completed, gently clean the area with a medicated shampoo to remove any stubborn bacteria that could still be lingering within the epidermal layer. Thoroughly rinse off the shampoo and then fully dry the leg before applying a cream ointment to aid in the healing. Some vets recommend using a hair dryer to affirm that the leg is completely dry. For the rest of the healing process, put a bandage on your horse to keep their leg nicely clean and dry. Doing this will help prevent Mud Rash from reinfecting the same area.
  4. Prevention: The absolute best and undeniable way to avoid Mud Rash is to maintain a clean, dry living area for your horse. This can be done by using a good quality bedding in your stall and mucking the stall out on a daily basis. Also, be gentle when its bath time for your horse because harsh scrubbing can damage its skin. You may want to invest in some waterproof boots for when your horse is turned out into the soggy pastures. If you cannot keep the mud at bay, consider digging drain ditches to divert storm waters and encourage rain to runoff of pasture areas.  Keep an old towel in the barn to dry off your horse’s legs before you put on their boots. Make sure to disinfect your gear every now and then to take care of any obstinate bacteria that could be loitering about. The final and perhaps most obvious advice we have is to check your horse often and take notice if something is not right. The sooner you catch this bacterial infection, the sooner you can stop and cure it.

The rainy season may put a damper on your time in the saddle, but don’t let it damage your horse’s skin as well. By knowing the cause of Mud Rash you can minimize your horse’s risk of contracting it. If you find that you are facing this infection, soak the area to remove the scabs, then gently wash and rinse it to rid your horse of the Pastern Dermatitis bacteria. Maintaining a hygienic, dry stall will prevent Mud Rash from appearing again. Hang in there, horse lovers!  Soon, the rain showers will cease and we will all be able to enjoy the brisk autumn breeze with our healthy horses once again!