What is Cysts (Epidermoid)?
There are a variety of cysts that can impact your horse’s health. Epidermoid cysts are cysts that can impact his skin and are cylindrical in shape. You may be able to feel and notice the cysts or cysts along your horse’s back, head, or other areas. These cysts may cause pain and discomfort to your horse or may go unnoticed.
Cysts can mimic the many other skin conditions that develop, such as abscesses. Two other types of cysts are cutaneous and dermoid. Dermoid cysts have hair in them versus an epidermoid cyst which does not. Cutaneous cysts tend to have a spot where they come to a head and the discharge in them tends to be like cheese in their texture. These cysts do not tend to cause pain unless they rupture.
A cyst is a pocket of tissue that is shaped like a sac or cylinder and filled with tissue, fluid or air. Cysts of the epidermis in horses are cysts of the top layer of your horse’s skin. These are relatively uncommon in horses. These cysts are typically not life threatening; however, depending on their location, if left untreated can cause ongoing issues.
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Symptoms of Cysts (Epidermoid) in Horses
The symptoms of an epidermoid cyst vary depending on the location of the cyst.
- Lameness – Your horse may develop an abnormal stride when walking or running due to the cyst as well
- Limping – You may notice your horse begin to limp when walking on even ground with no prior injury or reason for the limping
- Pain – If the cysts are along your horse’s back, he may not be able to tolerate you sitting on him or riding him due to the pain caused by them (while this is rare)
- Discomfort – Your horse may appear to be uncomfortable
- Fever – Your hose may develop a fever over time
- Neurological disturbance – In the event the cyst is in his skull or on his brain, your horse may begin to suffer neurological symptoms
Epidermoid cysts are thought to be congenital and benign in horses.
- Congenital – Epidermoid cysts are believed to be present at the time of birth in your horse, however they are not necessarily noticeable right away; typically, they only become apparent when the cysts begin to interfere with your horse’s everyday life
- Benign – These cysts are typically not malignant and therefore mostly harmless in your horse; they can become troublesome, but not dangerous to the overall health of your horse
Causes of Cysts (Epidermoid) in Horses
There are a few possible causes of epidermoid cysts in horses, such as a congenitalcause or the result of a traumatic event to the area.
- Congenital – Your horse was born with the cysts
- Trauma – In the event your horse develops an injury to the area, cysts may develop; the cysts can also develop if cells rapidly overproduce in the area
Diagnosis of Cysts (Epidermoid) in Horses
Diagnosis of epidermoid cysts will need to be done by a veterinarian if you suspect your horse may have them. A physical examination, involving palpation of the areas that may be bothering your horse, will be necessary to feel for any obvious cysts, lumps, or bumps. Once this assessment is complete, your veterinarian may check for a fever as one may be present if your horse has cysts.
Imaging may be necessary to determine the type of cysts your horse is dealing with and these are done while your horse is under general anesthesia. The imaging tools used are MRI, ultrasound and X-ray, all utilized for viewing and evaluating the condition. These tests will be used for differential diagnosis of the cyst and to determine any other damage or side effects resulting from it.
Treatment of Cysts (Epidermoid) in Horses
If your horse is diagnosed with epidermoid cysts, treatment options will be be surgical or topical. Your veterinarian may want to start with topical treatment such as creams to reduce the cyst, inflammation, and pain. However, if this treatment option does not work, surgery may be the next option.
Surgery will be used to excise the cysts and remove them if they are causing pain or discomfort, or if they have become infected. This procedure is done while your horse is under general anesthesia, and the cyst tissue may be sent off for further testing. This testing will determine if there are any other concerns such as cancer or infection. When treated topically, cysts have reappeared in horses and may require further treatment via surgery. Your veterinarian will discuss this possibility with you at the time of treatment.
Recovery of Cysts (Epidermoid) in Horses
Follow up may be necessary in the event the cysts do not heal with topical treatment. It will be important to monitor any possible changes or reappearance of the cysts once treatment is completed.
Additional appointments will be required for post-operative visits as directed by your veterinarian. If your horse has surgery, there may be restrictions on riding, saddle wearing, and exercise. Recovery after surgery may take a few weeks until your horse is fully healed and his sutures can come out.