Make sure your horse has the best chance of keeping mud fever at bay this winter.
The increased wet weather and muddy conditions over the last couple of months are playing havoc with our horse’s skin. Mud fever is caused by the bacteria, dermatophilus congolensis, which is always present in the soil but during constant exposure to wet and muddy conditions extra stain is placed on the skin, breaking down this natural defence and allowing the bacteria in causing infection which presents symptoms that we typically see such as scabbing around the heel and pastern which can extend higher up the leg and the belly if left untreated.
Mud fever in horses looks fairly harmless to start with but can rapidly become inflamed and painful, requiring stable rest and expensive veterinary treatment. It is important to stay one step ahead of this condition one of the ways in which you can help reduce this problem occuring is by supporting your horse nutritionally by feeding Think Mud.
What are the symptoms of mud fever?
It is generally the lower legs that are affected, particularly the pastern area which is most exposed to mud, however it can spread above the knees and hocks and even onto the belly in severe cases that are left untreated. Mud fever is easily identifiable, the key symptoms are:
- Inflammation of the skin
- Weeping of serum from skin
- Hardening and cracking of skin
- Swelling of lower leg
Management measures to keep mud fever at bay:
Unfortunately advice is very varied and it is important for you to find a regime which suits you and your horse. The following key management tips can be implemented to help reduce the risk of mud fever taking hold:
- Rotating fields to reduce the risk of them becoming churned up and horse’s standing around in wet, muddy fields.
- Creating a hard standing particularly in entrances to fields where horses are likely to be waiting around.
- Stabling for part of the day giving the horse a rest from muddy conditions allowing time for drying out and easier treatment.
- Leaving legs unclipped as a preventative measure, this will give natural protection from mud penetrating to the skin.
- As a preventative measure leave mud to dry whilst stabled and brush off dried mud prior to turning out.
- Using turnout boots which can provide extra protection for the legs against muddy conditions.
- Check your horse’s legs daily for signs of mud fever so that action can be taken earlier to avoid serious infection.
When symptoms of mud fever are already visible it may be necessary to carefully trim the affected area to allow it to dry quickly and leaving the problem easier to treat. Gently washing the legs with an antiseptic shampoo and luke warm water will help to soften scabs without further damaging the skin. Doing this prior to stabling and thoroughly drying them after will ensure legs don’t remain wet after washing.
The only way to guarantee that your horse is not affected, is to totally avoid wet and muddy conditions, which is very difficult to do. Therefore any actions you can take to reduce exposure to mud will help.
How can an equine supplement help an ‘outside’ problem?
Feeding a supplement to help support the horse on the outside is not as unlikely as it sounds. We all know that ‘health comes from within’ and just like feeding oils to create a shiny coat (far more effective than grooming!) you can also feed targeted nutrients to help maintain healthy winter skin. The old adage ‘prevention is better than cure’ rings particularly true with mud fever cases as once signs show it is very difficult to get on top of and treatment is costly. Your horse’s skin and immune system are the first line of defence against invading bacteria, so to keep conditions such as mud fever at bay it is important to support these natural defence mechanisms. Think Mud does just that by including key ingredients which support the integrity and condition of the skin whilst maintaining a healthy immune system and functioning digestive system.
Firstly, a good supplement will contain ingredients such as MSM and zinc for healthy skin and hair, as you need your horse’s skin to be in optimum health if it is to withstand constant exposure to muddy conditions. Secondly, the bacterial infection causes an immune response, and the body will immediately try to repair itself. By providing anti-oxidants in the diet, you can help ensure that your horse’s immune system is well supported. Thirdly, ingredients which support the body’s natural anti-inflammatory mechanisms could help to reduce swelling and thus reduce the chance of lameness.
In Think Mud we use a combination of ingredients with antioxidant function such as vitamin A, E and selenium that are essential for a healthy functioning immune system. Chelated trace elements are included for optimal absorption of zinc, copper, biotin and manganese which are an integral component of healthy skin and are essential for immune function. MSM is included as a natural anti-inflammatory and a bio-available source of sulphur, a vital nutrient involved in the formation of collagen and keratin, the building blocks of skin and hair. Phospholipids are also included as they play a major role in the component of all cell membranes and so are vital in supporting the integrity of skin. Think Mud also includes garlic which is renowned for its many health benefiting properties.