Treating mud fever with leeches

Bij hirudotherapie worden bloedzuigers bewust op specifieke plekken van het paardenlichaam geplaatst.


January 19, 2022
Hirudotherapy (medicinal leech therapy) involves the use of leeches to target specific places on the horse’s body.

Mud fever is a common affliction in (Friesian) horses. As was the case with Geartsje, an 8-year-old Friesian mare. Since when she was young, Geartsje had been known to have small patches of mud fever in her pastern cavity, a condition which could however, be kept well under control. Eight months before the mare was relocated to Martsje Bergsma of Hippiek, the mud fever on her off hind leg had progressed to moist, somewhat smelly, patches in the pastern cavity and around the fetlock. Both her hind legs showed signs of fluid build-up, with her off hind being more swollen than the other hind leg.

Medicinal saliva

Martsje Bergsma reports: ‘The owner had already tried a broad array of mud fever ointments, ranging from hormonal salves to salves based on natural resources. The mud fever however, appeared to become worse rather than better. An animal clinic then advised to give Geartsje some Prednisone, but again, this failed to bring about any improvement.’ In order to get the better of the mud fever the owner was keen to use Hirudotherapy on Geartsje. With this type of therapy leeches are used to target specific places on the horse’s body where their saliva can have a medicinal effect. The saliva of leeches contains between 80 and 100 active pharmacological substances which have a painkilling and anti-inflammatory function. These stimulate and activate the immune system and the self-healing capacity of the equine body.

Positive reaction

For the first treatment Martsje used a total of ten leeches on Geartsje; six leeches around the fetlock and pastern cavity of the off hind leg and four leeches to target the lymphatic system to try and activate it. Her comment: ‘Already one week after the initial treatment Geartsje’s mud fever had considerably subsisted and the skin was less irritated. The second and third treatments followed at monthly intervals. Geartsje’s body reacted positively to all treatments and after the third treatment she was practically mud fever-free. In consultation with the owner Geartsje now gets maintenance treatment with leeches every three months.’

Read the full real-life story by Martsje Bergsma in the February issue of Phryso

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