Mallenders and feather scabs review - edit following vet visit

Jane&Ziggy

Jane&Sid these days!
Apr 30, 2010
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I've posted about this a lot since getting Sid but can I just test my understanding of what is going on and all the different issues? I've been reading the Mallenders support group on Facebook and have got really quite confused.

As a reminder, Sid has mallenders on the backs of his knees (fronts only) and scabs in his feathers. The scabs come and go, he only has about 3 in total at present. The mallenders gets less or more but is always there. At present it's not very sore.

  1. Is this a chronic or an acute condition? As far as I have learned, mallenders is a form of keratosis, where the horse's body produces an excess of skin molecules, and it is chronic. It won't ever go away, though it can be managed. The feather scabs are more likely to be acute, caused by things like mites, mud fever or photosensitivity.
  2. Is this condition food related? I've seen a lot of people saying that mallenders is worsened by sugar in the grass or in forage. Does this match your experience?
  3. Is this related to sunlight? Are these horses photosensitive?
  4. Do supplements help? Many people give supplements. I have a supplement for Sid from Forage Plus, the Summer Skin Balancer. Do you have a view on whether a supplement helps?
  5. What about topical treatments? If your horse has these conditions, what treatment do you use? Do you worry about photosensitivity when using oils and greases?
  6. Brush or leave alone? Some swear by brushing the feathers out and lifting the scabs, others feel they're better left alone. What's your view?
  7. Feathers on or off? I thought to begin with I would have to clip Sid's legs to cope, and did, but as his feather grow back it feels more manageable to let them grow. Any thoughts?
Finally, I have gathered that horses are very unique in their presentation of the condition and responses to treatment. Given that there seem to be so many variables, do any of you have what I think a clinician would call a protocol for approaching it - ie, which thing to address first, what order to try things in?

It's so complicated. Thank you!
 

Jessey

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Dec 20, 2004
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I've not got masses of experience with it, but I think you can get acute, some horses can have sudden onset though often it develops into a chronic condition.

As for the rest, it seems to depend on the horse. I guess every immune system is different, and there's probably more than one trigger for mellanders/sellanders though they are often assumed to be all one thing much like eczema in people.
 

domane

Gracie's mum
Jul 31, 2005
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Gracie gets mallenders a little from time to time and in her case I'm convinced it is exacerbated by what she consumes. I don't feed her anything that contains biotin (which is why I went for the FP balancer) and it's definitely worse when she eats lots of sugary grass. She's been muzzled this spring/summer so far and all I've seen is a bit of greasy dandruff in her feather, she doesn't seem to have any sores this time 🤞 And she's not stamping her feet at all either.

When she's had sores in the past I dealt with them by trimming the long hair around them, slapping on Sudocreme and leaving them be 😂 The hair above covers them up so there's nothing unsightly and keeps the cream in place. I'd check then from time to time and slap a bit more cream on! It wasn't very medical or attentive but it workef for G. To be fair to her, she gets a bit ansty when I faff about with them so I needed to get in quick and then out again. To be fair though, I've had her 4 years and I've probably only had to do this twice in all that time.

Carrots! I've just remembered that I used to feed her carrots most days until I found out they are full of biotin! So I don't think they helped.
 

Jessey

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Dec 20, 2004
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Gracie gets mallenders a little from time to time and in her case I'm convinced it is exacerbated by what she consumes. I don't feed her anything that contains biotin (which is why I went for the FP balancer) and it's definitely worse when she eats lots of sugary grass. She's been muzzled this spring/summer so far and all I've seen is a bit of greasy dandruff in her feather, she doesn't seem to have any sores this time 🤞 And she's not stamping her feet at all either.

When she's had sores in the past I dealt with them by trimming the long hair around them, slapping on Sudocreme and leaving them be 😂 The hair above covers them up so there's nothing unsightly and keeps the cream in place. I'd check then from time to time and slap a bit more cream on! It wasn't very medical or attentive but it workef for G. To be fair to her, she gets a bit ansty when I faff about with them so I needed to get in quick and then out again. To be fair though, I've had her 4 years and I've probably only had to do this twice in all that time.

Carrots! I've just remembered that I used to feed her carrots most days until I found out they are full of biotin! So I don't think they helped.
I’m intrigued by the association of biotin, given horses naturally produce it in their gut. Did you hear it from scientific proof or anecdotal evidence?
 

Myfellpony

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Mar 15, 2015
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Mylo also has Mallenders. I keep his feathers long.

we avoid any products containing Biotin.

I use Cetreban cream on them and I can usually keep on top of them with this, I rub it in well so that the scabs are loosened and then comb them out. He normally lets me do this as long as he has a haynet.

I injured my knee and didn’t put any cream on his legs for 6 weeks. They became a mess and when a friend tried to put cream on them, he wouldn’t let her get anywhere near. He was due a sedation to get his teeth done, so I asked the vet to clean them for me, which he did using warm water and hibiscrub once the scabs were off, there was only a bit of pink skin, no bleeding, so the vet thought that he was sore simply because the scabs were pulling on his hairs. the vet was happy for me to continue with the Cetreban cream and as I am now a bit more mobile, I am managing to keep on top of them. This for me was confirmation that the routine I have is working well for us.

As I understand it, Mallenders and feather mites are linked, in that most cobs have mites which may not usually bother them, however the mites feed on the Mallenders so by removing the scabs you are removing the mites food, if you leave the scabs the mites multiply quickly. (That is a very simplified version of how my vet explained it). I use aFrontline spray every 6 weeks or so to keep on top of mites - again this has my vets approval.

i have noticed that the Mallenders appear to be worse when he is changing his coat, so twice a year.
he has never (touch wood) had sallenders.

it is a mine field and as you said, each horse is different, so it is trial and error as to what works for you.
 
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domane

Gracie's mum
Jul 31, 2005
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I’m intrigued by the association of biotin, given horses naturally produce it in their gut. Did you hear it from scientific proof or anecdotal evidence?
Mallenders is an overgrowth of keratin in the skin, so as biotin boosts the production of skin (hair & hoof), it's best avoided.
 

Bodshi

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Apr 23, 2009
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I'm no help whatsoever but re the scabs, when Raf had a skin infection one vet told me to remove the scabs and another told me to leave them alone. If vets don't really know, what hope is there for the rest of us? 🙄
 

Jane&Ziggy

Jane&Sid these days!
Apr 30, 2010
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I understand the logic, just wondered if it had been proven
In fact an academic view suggests the opposite, ie that biotin does not exacerbate mallenders but a biotin deficiency might. I can’t copy the link on my phone because I am a muppet, but will attach it later.
 
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Jane&Ziggy

Jane&Sid these days!
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I had a visit from my vet yesterday to discuss Sid's mallenders, which have flared up and dropped off during the summer. She was helpful. Her view was:

* Mallenders is indeed hyperkeratosis, and horses are predisposed to it if they have dry skins and coats, as many feathery cobs, heavy horse and Friesians have. In most cases there is a causative factor - something makes the horse's skin overgrow. The problem is that there are very many possible causative factors and combinations of factors, and it is likely that in each horse there is an individual combination of factors: bacterial, fungal, parasitic, metabolic and environmental.

* As a result the only way for a vet to treat them appropriately is to take samples from the scabs, culture them, and create a bespoke medication (usually a cream or liquid) which works against the bacterial, parasitic or fungal factors found in that specific horse. Even this will not address metabolic or environmental factors.

This is very expensive, and since mallenders is not a life threatening or (except in very serious cases) performance threatening condition, vets don't usually suggest it. As a result 99% of owners treat it as a chronic condition which can only be managed, and find the solution that works best for them by trial and error.

As far as Sid's condition went, she said:

* his mallenders is mild;

* I appear to be managing it adequately;

* he allows me to handle his legs, part his feathers, and rub in the horse oil I am using. This is by no means the norm and indicates that he trusts me and that he finds the treatment helpful. He wouldn't let the vet touch his legs below the knee.

Therefore I should continue doing what I am doing. I would do better in treating the condition if I removed the excess skin/scabs and treated with an antibacterial, but this would hurt and sting and, as the vet said, "end up with you on the roof of your stable and Sid up the other end of the field". She thought it wasn't worth the trouble for a mild condition.

She also recommended:

* grow the feathers, as they provide protection
* never wash his feathers unless I absolutely have to (@Cortrasna, you were right!). If I absolutely have to, use an animal shampoo such as Malaseb, never a human medicated shampoo
* feed a supplement to promote moisture in the skin and coat. She recommended mirra-coat, of which I found possibly the last 2 tubs in the whole of the UK and bought them yesterday. I notice that it contains biotin.

I'm going to copy this into Sid's diary so I have a record of it which I won't forget!
 
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