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Over the past five years, vet Stephen Ashdown has written many articles, spoken on equine matters and contributed widely to horse magazines.

Here he reproduces in the form of questions and answers about 100 topics, all of them common problems which afflict horses.

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Muddy Problems
Q: My TB Gelding has started to develop signs of mud fever. He's in at night and out during the day.

However in the mornings I've noticed that his lower hind legs are puffy. There's no heat in them and he isn't lame. When he's turned out the puffiness subsides.

What is causing this and have you any tips on controlling mud fever? also when he was turned out in a new fiend recently his hind legs swelled up. He wasn't lame but here were sign of colic-like bloated ness.

My vet diagnosed a photosensitive reaction,, possibly related to something he ate. Fortunately the condition soon cleared up but what is it?

A: Mud fever, filling of the legs and photosensitisation are closely related problems. Photosensitisation is a condition, which sensitises you horses skin to sunlight. It may he caused y eating toxic plants such as St Johns Wort, or by damage to the liver (caused by the same plants or infections).

Even thought the condition cleared up quickly there is likely to be some remaining damage to your horse's liver and other parts of the body, and he will be more sensitive to such problems in the future. One of the signs of such low-grade damage is weakened immune system and poor circulation. This makes horses more prone to mild problems such as the mud fever and filled legs you describe.

Mud fever is a bacterial skin infection that occurs in we conditions and needs to be treated with antibacterial preparations such as Hibiscrub (available from your vet) There are many other effective lotions and creams on the market, but make sure you keep your horses legs as clean and dry as possible. My approach to these types of problems is to build up the liver, digestive and immune systems.

Many plants such as aloe vera, dandelion and gentian do a good job of strengthening the body, and there are many different available in the shops.

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