What is Gastrointestinal Neoplasia?
The squamous cell carcinoma affects the equine stomach and can be an aggressive form of cancer. Treatment is very guarded as by the time it is found, the growth can be in the secondary stage and hard to treat. The main signs of this disease are the wasting away through weight loss, and colic after feeding your horse. This disease can literally take over the cardia and upper regions within the stomach area. Symptoms may include malaise, diarrhea, and weight loss. Diagnosis is not straightforward, not is the treatment for this disease. Discussion with your equine specialist will center on what is best for your equine companion.
Chronic weight loss may indicate the disease condition known as gastrointestinal neoplasia which is an aggressive cancerous growth within the digestive tract and stomach. At any point you feel that your horse is feeling unwell, consult an equine veterinarian in order to diagnose the illness in the early stages.
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Symptoms of Gastrointestinal Neoplasia in Horses
- Weight loss through obstruction within the internal organs
- Chronic inflammation
- Abnormal eating behavior
- General ill health
- Squamous cell carcinoma of the stomach is the most common form of neoplasia in your horse
- The alimentary form of lymphosarcoma also involves the gastrointestinal tract
- There are other types of cancer growths but the two listed are the types that will affect your horse’s stomach and digestion processes
Causes of Gastrointestinal Neoplasia in Horses
As with humans, the cause for cancer in equines is not definitively known. While research is ongoing in the field of all types of cancer, the reason this illness occurs is not certain. Some factors may be:
- Not having enough roughage in the feed may contribute to this disease
- Usually the cause is unknown and hard to prove when diagnosed
- Although unproven, ulcers that become infected may be a cause
- Diet has thought to be a part of the cause
- Genetics may be indicated
Diagnosis of Gastrointestinal Neoplasia in Horses
Diagnosis can be very difficult, and the high growth rate of this type of cancer plus lack of appropriate solution to this condition can lead to poor prognosis. Your equine specialist can use an abdominal ultrasound to locate the mass inside the stomach area. Blood work is usually done, and gastroscopy can assist in locating the growth mass. A rectal exam can also assist with diagnosis. Your veterinarian will discuss the findings with you to determine the next course of action. The difficulty in diagnosis the cancer condition and the financial costs of treating an animal as large as your horse can make this type of cancer devastating. Until modern veterinary practise can come up with a viable solution that can improve your horse’s condition and provide a quality of life, the outcome is not always promising.
Treatment of Gastrointestinal Neoplasia in Horses
While there have been a few cases where surgical removal of a segment of the bowel has been successful, the stomach is very different. Although technology is improving medical procedures, unfortunately in most cases, this disease is untreatable and with no treatment the prognosis is very poor. Chemotherapy or corticosteroid therapy may help prolong the survival rate, but it will not provide a cure. Even if caught early on, there is not a lot that can be done, due to your horse’s anatomy and sheer size. Treating an animal of the size of your horse has a lot of risk attached to it especially with surgical procedures. Once the disease is in the secondary growth stage, the survival time is very short with most horses passing away within three to four weeks of diagnosis.
Recovery of Gastrointestinal Neoplasia in Horses
Presently the typical recourse for your beloved horse is either pain management until it is no longer humane to continue, or euthanasia to save your friend any more pain. Sadly, until a cure is found, this aggressive cancer is hard to confine. Your horse may not be an animal that reacts well to surgery, and often, there are a lot of complications involved with this option. Even then if the growth could be removed, the possibility of recovery is not strong. Being such a heavy animal, your horse has few options when it comes to gastrointestinal neoplasia.