Wet conditions and cold weather can be difficult for your horse to deal with over winter. These conditions can increase the risk of skin infections for your pony. We spoke to our horse health expert about rain scald and mud fever, two of the more common skin infections that could affect your horse over the winter months. Find out everything you need to know about the infections in our latest horse health blog!


Usually, your horse’s healthy skin acts as a barrier, protecting them from infection. However, if these normal skin defences are weakened through things like skin softening, foreign bodies or trauma, an infection can develop. Rain scald and mud fever are both caused by the bacterium Dermatophilus Congolensis. Occurring naturally in their skin, it can cause infection if the skin is persistently wet or damaged. Both infections commonly occur in grass-kept horses and ponies over winter, as well as those exercising in wet, muddy conditions; where the chance of infection is higher.


Rain scald typically affects your horse’s back and flanks, with lesions appearing over the body, neck and head, while mud fever can refer to lesions affecting the lower limbs. The skin becomes inflamed and sore with scabs, and you may notice matted areas of hair. You might also see small, circular, ulcerated, moist lesions beneath the scabs, as well as yellow pus on the infected area.


Areas on your horse with either white hair or where pink skin is showing are the most likely to be affected by mud fever or rain scald. Mud fever can potentially cause lameness, deep infection and cellulitis within your pony. Your vet can normally diagnose the problem by examining the lesions. However, skin samples may also be taken for your vet to examine, allowing them to confirm the diagnosis.


Always consult your vet for the best course of treatment for your horse. Before the treatment begins, your vet may clip the affected areas. Then, the crusting lesions should be softened and gently removed through bathing, with either a medicated shampoo or an anti-bacterial wash. Your horse’s skin should be thoroughly dried between washes, before bandaging and rugging. Your vet will prescribe a topical treatment appropriate for your horse, as well as any additional treatment they may need.


There are a few steps you can take to prevent the development of these conditions throughout the colder seasons. Make sure to keep your horse as clean and dry as possible during the winter months. Where stabling is not practical, you can do this using leg wraps or barrier creams on dry, clean legs. Your horse should also have suitable hard standing around gateways, shelters and feeding areas. The bacteria can spread between horses, so avoid sharing tack and equipment.

Mud fever and rain scald can cause serious problems for your horse over winter! Thankfully, they can avoided by keeping your horse clean and dry. If you’re worried about your horse’s health and want to know more about keeping them safe throughout the colder season, we always recommend that you consult your vet.

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