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Tackling Mud Fever: From Understanding to Nutrition

Mud Fever, a common dermatological condition affecting horses, particularly their lower limbs but also extending to their belly and back, is often associated with muddy conditions, predominantly in the autumn and winter seasons.

This skin ailment results from the damage inflicted upon the skin's outermost layer, which acts as a barrier against various external threats. When this layer is compromised due to mud-related skin cracking and splitting, it becomes vulnerable to infections, most frequently caused by bacteria. However, dermatophyte fungi and mange mites can also contribute to the problem. Additional factors, such as a weakened immune system and allergens (both food and inhaled), can further increase the risk. Mud fever, much like Sweet Itch, may necessitate a combination of factors to reach a threshold where noticeable symptoms emerge.

Identifying Mud Fever Symptoms

Symptoms of mud fever include:

  • Crusty scabs on the heels or lower legs
  • Broken and damaged skin
  • Matted hair or patches of hair loss with raw skin underneath
  • Creamy, white, yellow, or green discharge between the skin and the scabs
  • Heat, pain, and swelling in the lower limb
  • In severe cases, lameness

 symptoms of mud fever

These symptoms are indicative of an infection and the immune response to it. Effective treatment involves meticulous cleaning of the affected areas, maintaining cleanliness and dryness, and possibly applying a topical treatment. In some cases, veterinary intervention may be necessary, leading to antibiotic and anti-inflammatory treatments, among others.

Managing and Reducing the Risk of Mud Fever

While there are no fool proof solutions to prevent mud fever, certain management practices can reduce the risks. Here are a few:

  • Ensure there are dry areas available for grazing.
  • Keep the horse's legs as clean and dry as possible.
  • Apply barrier creams when necessary.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at how nutrition may also play a vital role in supporting horses dealing with mud fever. To understand this better, it's essential to acknowledge the complex relationship between the horse's gut, immune system, and microbiota, collectively referred to as the microbiome.

treatment for mud fever

The Microbiome's Role in Mud Fever

The microbiome operates as a 3-fold synergistic system comprising the gut wall and barrier, the immune system, and the microbiota. In an ideal scenario, the gut wall efficiently absorbs nutrients and rejects toxins, the immune system effectively combats pathogens while regulating inflammatory factors, and the microbiota supports proper digestion and produces bioactive products that aid the other components. When it comes to optimising the microbiome, specific nutritional elements can make a significant difference. For example, pectins can generate butyrate, that has far reaching impacts on gut health, antigen desensitisation, and immune support. Additionally, bioactive components in natural products, such as turmeric, can influence microbial populations, help support anti-inflammatory processes in the gut wall, and support immune responses. The optimisation of the microbiome has the ability to place the horse in a better condition to combat external stresses like mud fever.

Beyond the Gut: Metabolic Systems and Skin Integrity

Mud fever impacts more than just the epidermis of the skin. While damage to this outer layer allows harmful toxins to enter, subsequent skin layers provide additional layers of defence. Omega-3 fats, situated beneath the skin, serve as base units for the production of regulatory hormone-like factors that promote anti-inflammatory mechanisms while contributing to skin suppleness. Sebaceous glands, responsible for skin lubrication, can be reinforced with essential oils (terpenoids) from natural sources. These essential oils can repel ticks and mites, discourage microbial colonisation, and help to maintain skin integrity. Furthermore, antioxidants support normal immunological function and help repair tissue. In short, nutritional and naturally sourced ingredients can support in building a strong and secure dermal layer, deterring microbes and external parasites, and assist in the horse's immune response in the event of an infection.

How TurmerItch may help

We have had reports of horses that suffer from mud fever appear to have benefitted from being fed TurmerItch.

 "TurmerItch, a supplement that is absorbed into the bloodstream rather than applied topically. TurmerItch combines key ingredients to help provide relief from itching and soothes the skin.

supplement for mud fever
"After struggling with scabby heels, of which shampoo and creams weren't fixing. I've noticed great results in the last few weeks! Now we are completely scab free".
mud fever recovered
Source: Chaise Purcell - Customer & Showjumper.

TurmerItch, designed to complement TurmerAid (by building on the turmeric levels), supplies a range of essential oils that have been shown as repellent to mites, interfere with microbial colonisation, and support immune responses both locally and at the gut level. Other bioactives contained within TurmerItch help avoid itching, support repair and anti-inflammatory processes. Although originally designed to help support those horses prone to sweet itch, parallel mechanisms means TurmerItch has the potential to be as effective for those horses susceptible to mud fever.


In conclusion, mud fever presents a multifaceted challenge for horse owners, and understanding its complexities is key to effective management. Nutrition, particularly through optimising the microbiome and supporting metabolic systems, plays a pivotal role in bolstering skin integrity and local immune responses. As we've seen, the potential of supplements like TurmerItch to address mud fever offers hope and a valuable tool in the battle against this persistent equine skin condition.

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