EQUINE DISEASE: MUD FEVER
Synonyms of equine disease mud fever: Rain scald (if infection affects the neck region), Scratches, Dew poisoning, Pastern dermatitis, Greasy heel.
Equine Mud Fever is caused by bacteria that live in the soil as spores. Dermatophilus congolensis is the bacterium that is responsible for causing the equine disease mud fever. The spores can survive for many years and are activated by dampness. During wet weather the area around the pastern and hock joint are constantly exposed to wet soil. This weakens the area and causes the skin to soften, leaving it more vulnerable to disease & chapping. Once there is an open wound, the opportunistic bacteria invade causing equine mud fever. It is these conditions that cause a higher incidence of equine mud fever, but wet conditions are not necessarily required for mud fever to occur.
Some horses seem more prone than others to this disease, this is because their skin is a less efficient barrier to infection. The less protected the area the higher the risk of skin scrapes occurring. So horses with large amounts of hair in this area are less likely to develop equine mud fever.
SYMPTOMS OF MUD FEVER EQUINE DISEASE
(Areas most affected by the equine disease mud fever are the pastern and heel area on the horse’s leg)
• Matted hair
• Crusty scabs
• Exudates on a horse’s leg
• Swollen leg
• Painful sores and scabs
• Belly and neck region can also be affected
• Non-pigmented skin tends to be more severely affected
CAUSES OF MUD FEVER EQUINE DISEASE
• Invasive bacterium Dermatophilus congolensis and sometimes Staphylococcus spp.
• Fungal organisms (Dermatophytes)
• Chorioptic mange mites
• Contact dermatitis
TREATMENT OF EQUINE DISEASE MUD FEVER
Repeated attacks of equine mud fever are not uncommon once there has already been one bout. Therefore prevention is better than a cure. Some common ways to help prevent the onset of this equine disease are:
• Preventing the skin from chapping in the first place. Mud should be left to dry and then brushed off rather than hosed down. Failing that, the area must be thoroughly dried off after being cleaned.
• Nutritional supplements to promote healthy skin
• Ensure clean and dry bedding
• Inspect the lower limbs daily in order to catch any early signs of onset.
However, if the infection has taken hold, the best course of treatment for equine mud fever is to clean the wound thoroughly with an antibacterial scrub to remove the crusts that harbour the infection. Dry and clip to maintain absolute cleanliness and free of further infection. Then antibiotics must be administered to control the infection.
The infective bacteria can live in the crusts for up to 42 months so must be disposed of immediately! The wounds will reseal with new scabs so these need to be cleaned daily.
The infection is self-limiting in dry conditions. Don’t cover the limbs of these horses because the warm and moist environment provided by the bandaging will undoubtedly worsen the infection. It could also force the infection to travel further up the limb. Once the infection has been eliminated it is crucial to continue protecting the area until the new skin and hair has formed.
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