Last Updated on January 12, 2023
Sarcoids in horses can be very problematic, and finding the right sarcoid treatment in horses is not always easy. There are many different treatment options for sarcoids in horses, and not all of them will be successful in all cases. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about sarcoids in horses, including the best options for sarcoid treatment in horses!
What Are Sarcoids In Horses?
Sarcoids are a common problem in horses and can be very difficult to resolve. A sarcoid is a persistent skin lump that grows gradually over various different areas of the body. These lumps are a type of locally-invasive skin tumor called fibrosarcoma.
Although these tumors are invasive, they only affect the skin and do not spread to other body organs. A horse may have just one sarcoid, or more commonly it will have various sarcoids over different sites of the body.
Although theoretically, a horse could get sarcoids anywhere on the body, there are some areas where they are more prevalent. They tend to occur around the head, in between the forelegs, and in the groin area. Sarcoids also commonly occur in healing wounds.
There are various different types of sarcoids, but most of them are nonpainful and nonitchy. Some of them develop ulceration on the surface, which can attract flies and develop secondary infections. To make matters worse, the horse may itch these, causing them to bleed and become sore.
Sarcoids are the most common type of skin tumor in horses, and they can affect horses of all breeds, all ages, and both genders. They can appear suddenly and grow rapidly or may develop slowly over a long period of time.
What Causes Sarcoids In Horses?
Sarcoids in horses are caused by a virus called bovine papillomavirus (BVP). Not all horses are susceptible to this virus, and it seems that there is a genetic predisposition to getting sarcoids. A horse that is genetically susceptible to BVP will most likely keep developing sarcoids throughout its life.
The other problem with sarcoids in horses is that it is not fully understood how a horse contracts the virus. It is not been proven if BVP can be transmitted by direct horse-to-horse contact, although for many years it was believed that the virus was spread by flies. Increased numbers of cases of sarcoids may be linked to horses that live in certain areas where the virus is more prevalent, but the mode of transmission is unknown.
How To Treat Sarcoids In Horses
If you’re looking for a sarcoid cure, sadly you are going to be disappointed! In fact, if the sarcoids on your horse are not causing a problem, your veterinarian may well advise just to leave them alone. Sarcoids very rarely disappear by themselves, but the treatment is often more painful and detrimental to the horse than the sarcoids themselves.
The other problem with trying to treat sarcoids in horses is that you can remove the lumps themselves, but it is highly likely that more sarcoids will appear elsewhere in the body.
This is because the lumps themselves have been removed, but the papilloma virus will still be present within the skin cells. Even if all infected skin cells are removed, the horse is still susceptible to catching the virus again at a later date.
Some treatments for sarcoids in horses have even been known to make the problem worse. For example, surgical removal of lumps will normally result in more lumps popping up rapidly in different areas of the body.
If your horse starts to develop sarcoids, it is a good idea to monitor the site of the lesions and the rate at which they are growing.
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Options For Sarcoid Treatment In Horses
There are many different options for sarcoid treatment in horses, and there is a good reason for this. When it comes to sarcoids in horses, there is no single cure that will treat all types of sarcoids. Even on one individual horse, it may be that different treatment methods are utilized to treat separate sarcoids.
The reason for this is that all sarcoids are different – some grow rapidly and have a high chance of recurrence, whereas some grow slowly and cause few problems at all. It may be necessary to seek the advice of a specialist equine veterinary dermatologist to help determine the best treatment for sarcoids in horses.
One of the key areas for concern when treating sarcoids in horses is when the lesions appear on the eyelids. Many of the topical treatments for sarcoid in horses are very aggressive and could affect the eyesight of the horse.
Surgical excision of sarcoids is normally unsuccessful unless a secondary treatment method is also applied. The area can be frozen using cryotherapy, or the sarcoids can be removed with a surgical laser.
Your veterinarian may recommend an equine sarcoid topical treatment for specific types of sarcoids. This comes in the form of a topical chemotherapy cream that must be applied by a veterinary professional. Other topical treatments include natural remedies such as ointments with extracts of the bloodroot plant.
Chemotherapy drugs may also be injected to treat sarcoids, or the sarcoids themselves can be injected with a vaccine. Some veterinarians may be able to perform treatments such as photodynamic light therapy or electrochemotherapy.
So, as we have learned when it comes to sarcoid treatment in horses, there are many different options and not all of them will work in all cases. Most veterinarians will advise leaving sarcoids alone unless they are causing a problem, such as ulceration or interfering with the movement of the horse. The treatment your veterinarian recommends will depend on the type of sarcoids the horse has and the area of the body on which they are located.
We would love to hear your thoughts on the best options for sarcoid treatment in horses! Does your horse have persistent sarcoids that have failed to respond to any type of treatment? Or maybe you’ve got some questions about how to prevent your horse from getting sarcoids in the first place. Leave a comment below and we will get back to you!
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE