What is a sarcoid?
A sarcoid is a form of skin tumour or cancer that affects horses, donkeys and mules. It is quite common and is generally benign and non-life-threatening. There are different classifications of sarcoids based on their appearance with some aggressive forms where local tissue is also attacked.
Sarcoids can have several different appearances and sometimes look like an ulceration that may crust over as it heals and it shouldn’t be mistaken for Equine Papillomas (warts). Whilst equine warts are caused by infection from a virus they are not a serious threat to a horse’s health but merely a cosmetic defect and will eventually regress. Whilst the equine papilloma will go away on its own over time the sarcoid will rarely regress.
What causes Sarcoids?
There is a controversy over the cause however it is generally accepted that a cattle wart virus (Bovine Papilloma Virus) plays some part in the development. It is also thought that flies are involved in some way through spreading the virus/disease.
How do horses get Sarcoids?
By direct infection with the Bovine Papilloma Virus – in this case the horse needs to be in contact with cattle that are affected by the cattle form of the disease.
Most horses with sarcoids get more new tumours, we know that this does not occur via the blood stream so it seems likely that flies are an important aspect of the spread of the disease.
What do sarcoids look like?
There are 6 major forms, each has a characteristic physical appearance, in all cases proper veterinary advice must be sought. Your vet is more than aware of the problems associated with the disease and will take all aspects into account before deciding what treatment is best for the case.
Do sarcoids have any general effects on the horse?
A few tumours of a superficial type are an unlikely to affect the horse at all but there are some that are badly affected by even a single tumour. Performance and general health may however be affected and many horses with even a few sarcoids are reported to work better and feel better after the tumours have been treated.
Sarcoids are usually non-painful; even when they are very large and bleeding many horses seem unaware of the problem. Fly strike and worry is a major cause of irritation and infection can easily complicate the sarcoid site making life almost intolerable for the horse.
How can I be sure a lesion is a sarcoid?
Quite often it is very difficult to tell if a single lesion is a sarcoid. They can look like ringworm, certain forms can look very similar to warts and others can look like ‘proud flesh’. Therefore it is important to diagnose the condition because the treatments for the various conditions are significantly different.
Can sarcoids be treated successfully?
There are many different types of treatment available and that almost certainly means that no one treatment type is universally effective! The main categories of treatment are used for specific types and locations and no one treatment is universally applicable. Careful selection of the most appropriate treatment for each individual lesion can deliver almost 100% success.
Sarcoids - what you need to know:
Owners should be VERY careful before they embark on any treatment that is not specifically designed for sarcoid treatment and is not prescribed by your veterinarian after consultation and clinical assessment. They may seem a ‘cheap and easy option’ but there are seldom cheap and easy solutions to cancer and anything that makes these claims should be treated with considerable suspicion. When they are used there is a very high rate of serious exacerbation that renders it impossible to use any other treatments at all.
Always talk to your veterinarian if you have any concerns, call the team at Vet Cross Bundaberg 4151 5044 or Vet Cross Gin Gin 4157 3991.