Mallenders In Horses – All About Causes, Symptoms & Treatment!

Maude is an inflammatory skin reaction in the bend of the horse’s fetlock. It manifests itself in many ways and has different causes. If you notice it in your horse, it is important that you consult your veterinarian soon. He will diagnose the cause so that you can quickly treat it properly.

You can find out why your horse suffers from mallenders and how to treat it in our guide.

Mallenders : Brief overview

-> Everything you need to know about the horse’s mallenders explained in 30 seconds:

The term mauke stands for inflammatory skin changes of the fetlock bend of horses. Mauke more often affects horses with pasterns and white limbs.
Mallenders has many triggers. It results from poor soil and coat hygiene and infections with bacteria, fungi and parasites, among other causes.
Typical symptoms:
Initially, the skin areas are red, show cracks and form scales. They are sensitive to touch. Later, the skin becomes bare and crusts form.
Therapy depends on the cause of the mallenders: e.g. antibacterial, antifungal or antiparasitic therapy. In any case, it is important to optimize coat care and postural hygiene.
Prognosis: If you recognize the mallenders early and treat consistently, as the veterinarian prescribes, the prognosis is good.

What is mallenders?

Mallenders is a generic term for inflammatory skin changes in the pastern of horses (pastern dermatitis). The term mallenders describes not so much a diagnosis as a syndrome. That is, mallenders summarize symptoms that have different causes but look similar.

Mallenders in the conventional sense develops more on the rear fetlock areas. It develops when the surface on which you keep your horse is too wet. Lack of hygiene encourages the disease to progress. The skin softens, cracks form and bacteria invade.

Which horses are most susceptible to the disease?
Horses all over the world are afflicted with mallenders. Studies have shown that the incidence of mallenders is higher in certain horses. It often affects the following animals:

Horses with long pastern hair:

Horses with heavy pastern hair, such as cold-blooded horses, Tinkers or Friesians, suffer more frequently from mallenders.
Older horses:
An older horse is more likely to suffer from foot-and-mouth disease.
White limbs:
Lightly pigmented and white-haired areas of skin are more likely to get the disease.
What are the causes of foot-and-mouth disease in horses?
The reasons for pastern dermatitis are manifold. Influences from the environment such as damp ground, many different factors can cause and drive the inflammatory changes in the horse. Mildew is one of the multifactorial diseases. The appearance varies.

The veterinarian distinguishes between primary (original), predisposing (promoting) and perpetuating factors as the cause of the mallenders.

Possible causes of malaise are as follows:

Primary factors
Parasitic infections
Fungal infections of the skin
Chemical or physical irritation of the skin, e.g., from treated bedding or blisters
Immune system reactions, e.g., allergies from insect bites or contact allergies
Neoplastic changes (new formation of tissue).
=> Single example: When horses have a k├Âtenbehang, an infestation of mites is often the reason for the mallenders. The mites also spread to other animals. The quadrupeds suffer from severe itching and try to gnaw the spots.

Predisposing factors

Environment, e.g. poor stable and pasture hygiene
Genetic factors, e.g. unpigmented skin and hair
External influences, e.g. irritant treatment agents or inadequate coat care
=> Single example: a muddy turnout can cause or aggravate mallenders, as the skin becomes more susceptible to them due to the constant moisture and dirt.

Sustaining factors
Secondary infections: Infections with a different pathogen than the one that first triggered the disease,
Pathological skin changes, e.g. after an accident or tick bite
Environmental conditions, e.g. cold or strong UV light
=> Single example: In the case of inflamed hair follicles or a pus rash, certain bacteria are often to blame. Your horse gets infected with the bacteria only after the skin shows irritation.

Special forms of multi-layered malar dermatitis include:

Pastern Leukocytoclastic Vasculitis:

Pastern Leukocytoclastic Vasculitis occurs primarily in summer on unpigmented areas of skin on the lower parts of the horse’s legs. It is clearly circumscribed, reddish in color due to inflammation, and shows crusts from which fluid oozes. It causes pain to the horse.
Warty mallow or rash:
In cold blooded warts, the lower leg areas swell due to lack of lymphatic drainage, among other things. The connective tissue changes greatly and additional infections (secondary infections) occur. If the “warts” with cracks, scales and crusts also appear at the level of the carpal or hock joint, it is called raspe.


Do not start “poking around” on the diseased skin areas. This will change the clinical picture. It is better to immediately ask the veterinarian of your choice for advice and treat your horse according to his instructions.

How do I recognize scurf on my horse?
In the early stages of the disease you will see red and cracked skin in the fetlock bend. Scales form. The horses are sensitive to touch in these areas. The changes occur on both sides or on one side. The hind legs and white legs are more often affected by mallenders.

As the disease progresses, hairless areas develop. The upper layers of skin are lost and crusts form. The areas can be very itchy – often mite infestation is the reason for the mallenders. In bad cases, the limbs swell or the horses get blood poisoning. If the inflammation is chronic, the tissue changes greatly. The horses may start to lame chronically.

  • Symptoms of mallenders at a glance
  • Inflammatory reddening of the skin.
  • Cracks in the skin.
  • Formation of scales.
  • Sensitivity to touch.

The veterinarian distinguishes between three forms of mallenders

Mild form:
The mild form of the Mauke occurs most frequently. You can recognize it by the hairless areas, crusts and scales. The skin may be red. Itching and pain occur.
Exudative form (fluid leaks):
In this form of mallenders, protein-rich and purulent fluids ooze from inflamed and crusty areas.
Chronic proliferative form:
This is the form of the mallenders that the veterinarian refers to as wart mallenders. It has already been mentioned in the text. Due to strongly altered connective tissue, grape-like growths of the skin occur, some of which are frighteningly enormous.
How does the veterinarian make the exact diagnosis with the Mauke symptomatology?

In order to accurately diagnose the mallenders, the history of your horse, the so-called anamnesis, is significant for the veterinarian. You give the veterinarian information about your horse. With this information, he draws conclusions before he clinically examines your four-legged friend.

The history includes, for example:

Type and development of skin lesions:

  • When did they first appear?
  • Seasonal or seasonally independent?
  • New medication or product use prior to first occurrence?
    Features of coat or limbs:
  • Single or all limbs affected?
  • Is there itching or does swelling occur?
    Posture of your horse:
  • Is your horse in a stall, pasture or paddock?
  • What kind of bedding do you use?
  • Is the animal standing in the wet?
  • Have you pretreated with any products? If yes: with which?
  • What effect did you observe?
    Infectious aspects:
  • Do other horses show similar symptoms?
  • Do people in the stable show rashes?
    By asking specific questions, the veterinarian will get important clues. Now he examines your horse clinically and looks specifically at the affected skin areas.

Depending on the results of the examinations, he may decide to perform other tests.

These may be further diagnostic tests:

Cultural detection of germs:

To detect specific germs, the veterinarian takes a small tissue sample from the skin. Using a culture, the veterinarian determines specific bacterial or yeast species.
Detection of specific fungal infections of the skin:
For this purpose, the veterinarian removes hairs including roots and examines them microscopically.
Scraping preparation for mite detection:
Scraped scales or crusts show under the microscope if your horse’s skin contains mites.
Tesafilm scraping preparation:
The veterinarian uses the tesafilm sample to detect mites directly under the microscope. When he stains the sample, he detects specific bacteria or yeast. Special cells provide clues to the causes of disease.

Tissue sampling for histological examination:

The veterinarian examines histologically if he suspects that the disease originates from the immune system.
Blood test:
To rule out the possibility that the skin is sensitive to light (photosensitivity) because of liver disease, the veterinarian draws blood. He examines for certain liver values.

How can the horse be treated?

How you treat the horse’s scurf depends on the results of the veterinarian’s examination. The treatment includes all stressing and triggering factors for the disease. In any case, you should optimize the hygiene management in the stable and on the pasture, because a lack of hygienic conditions aggravates the mallenders.


The treatment of the mallenders depends on the particular causes. Always improve the hygiene regime.

To improve the hygienic conditions, keep the following in mind:

Avoid muddy pastures and runs as well as sandy shelters!
Take your horse to the pasture only when the dew has dried!
Leave your horse in the dry stable when it rains!
Muck out the stall several times a day (see: Guide “Mucking out horse stalls properly!”)
Shear strong pasterns!
If you improve the ground conditions for your horse, you can also avoid another disease – thrush. You can learn more about thrush in our guide, “Thrush in Horses – What You Need to Know About Causes, Symptoms and the Right Treatment!”.

It makes sense to thoroughly clean the skin areas directly after riding. This will remove irritating sweat and dirt.

If you suspect your horse is sensitive to UV light, stall or bandage it. With the bandage you keep the rays away from the diseased skin.

What remedies help with mallenders?

Which remedy helps with mallenders can vary greatly depending on the cause. The best remedy for mallenders is the remedy that your veterinarian recommends to you or prescribes to your horse.

The following therapies are possible:

Antimicrobial shampoos and lotions.

Antimicrobial shampoos are used in case of bacterial infections of the mallenders. Chlorhexidine is one of the active ingredients used.

Leave the shampoo on for several minutes!
Dry the areas well after washing out!
You can disinfect the skin with solutions containing povidone-iodine, such as Betaisodona® solution. Antimicrobial lotions and ointments are also effective. Mild antimicrobial effect has e.g. honey.

If you treat the leg, protect it from wetness and dirt afterwards with a water-repellent bandage.

Antifungal agents (against fungi)

Sometimes skin fungi trigger pastern dermatitis. Healthy animals usually recover on their own after a few weeks. However, this infection is very contagious to other horses and humans can also contract it. Therefore, all affected animals and contact animals should be treated locally with the antifungal agents.

Antiparasitic therapy

If your horse suffers from mites, your veterinarian will recommend or prescribe antiparasitic agents. You apply them or administer them orally. The itching will soon subside with therapy.


Corticosteroids are prescribed by the veterinarian for autoimmune changes.

Lymphatic drainage and compression stockings

Your veterinarian will recommend manual lymphatic drainage for chronic verruca, as lymphatic drainage is disturbed. Compression stockings may be useful at this time.

Crust softening agents

Substances that loosen the outer layer of the skin include salicylic acid. Some horse owners swear by the Ballistol Animal care oil. They report that Ballistol is excellent at loosening crusts and it helps the skin get healthy.

Dressing therapy

Bandage therapy is used when the leg is edematous or swollen with infection. It helps when you cannot loosen hard crusts. Initially, you can apply an angus bandage with disinfecting iodine solution.

Caring ointments and creams

Skin and coat care products – such as zinc ointments or ointments with panthenol like Effol’s Haut-Repair – help the skin to heal after the inflammation has subsided. You can use cod liver oil zinc ointment as a skin protection ointment. It helps with poorly healing or moist wounds.


If your horse is not adequately supplied with minerals such as zinc, it can more easily become ill with mallenders. If your horse is deficient in zinc, balancing feed will help control the foot odor. Zinc is important for wound healing, skin, hair and the immune system. Make sure you feed your horse a balanced diet. Your veterinarian will determine a zinc deficiency through a blood test. He will recommend a mineral feed.

How can I prevent scurf?

In order to prevent your horse from contracting mange, keep the following in mind in your horse’s daily routine:

Proper coat care in the fetlock bend
Dry wet pasterns well
Shorten the pastern
Use soft brushes for the pasterns
Clean and dry bedding in the box
Dry turnout, dry out wet paddock
Frequent mucking out of the box and “mucking out” of the pasture
Clean the leg protection after every ride
Pay attention to mineral supply through the feed

What is the prognosis for mallenders?

Depending on the severity of your horse’s malanders, the prognosis is good to moderate. If your horse suffers from a mild form, you optimize the hygiene and treat the affected areas consistently, the symptoms will soon go away. Keep a close eye on your horse’s pasterns. The mallenders can come back.

Conclusion to the Mallenders

If your horse is suffering from mallenders, you can quickly recognize it by changes in the skin in the area of the fetlock bend. In the beginning the skin becomes red, cracks and scales form. Later, inflammation and hairless areas appear, crusts develop. In severe forms, swelling occurs. In cold blood, rash may develop as a severe form. As the spots change, it is important to consult your veterinarian early on. If you follow his guidelines, you are on the safe side. You must consistently follow his guidelines for hygiene, care and treatment of your horse for the therapy to have lasting success. Recurrences are not uncommon with mallenders. In general, hygiene management in the barn is crucial when it comes to not giving mallenders a chance.

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