What is Sarcoids ?
Any horse can become affected by sarcoids but American Quarter Horses seem to be predisposed for them. Standardbred horses have the lowest occurrence of sarcoids.
Equine sarcoids can present as a single or multiple lesions and can be in several different forms from small lesions to large, ulcerated growths. Sarcoids are seldom life threatening but they can cause issues with function, depending on the location. Lesions can present anywhere on your horse’s body with the most commonly affected areas being the paragenital region, abdomen, head, and ventral thorax. Lesions will most likely present where there was a previous injury and scarring.
Book First Walk Free!
Symptoms of Sarcoids in Horses
Each type of equine sarcoid has its own symptoms. If you notice any changes on your horse’s skin, have your veterinarian do a full assessment to make sure that proper treatment is given for the illness.
- Circular or flat, appear as a thickening area
- Hairless and gray in color
- Small nodules may present, about 2mm-5mm in diameter
- Located on the inside of the thighs, upper forelegs, neck, eyes or mouth
- Has a wart like or scabby appearance
- Gray in color
- Can be nodules or surface ulcerations
- Located anywhere on the body, in the groin area or on the face
- Raised nodules that are firm to the touch
- Can ulcerate and bleed
- Between 5mm-20mm in diameter
- Located in the groin area, sheath or on eyelids
- Fleshy and ulcerative in a thin line or a wide base
- They will bleed easily
- Several sarcoids present in one area
- Located along the lower legs, groin or eyelid
- Lesions will present as two or more different varieties of sarcoids
- Can be grouped together or in separate areas on the body
- Located anywhere on the body
- Multiple nodules, usually very close together
- Ulcerating lesions
- Can be invasive and invade the lymphatic system
- Looks like cords underneath the skin
There are six distinct types of equine sarcoids. Each type is easy to identify as they have very different properties.
- Occult - These equine sarcoids are flat, gray in color, hairless and persistent; occult equine sarcoids are usually circular in shape
- Verrucose - These sarcoids are warty or scabby in appearance, gray in color; they may have small, solid nodules or surface ulcerations
- Nodular - These equine sarcoids will be solid nodules of differing sizes and clumped together; they may ulcerate and bleed
- Fibroblastic - These are big, fat masses that either present in a thin line or have a wide, flat base that will bleed easily; they may have a wet or hemorrhagic surface
- Mixed - These are actually a mix of two or more types of sarcoids that have presented at the same time; they can be in the same location or they can be spread over a large area
- Malevolent - These sarcoids are very aggressive tumors that spread through the skin; the cords of the tumor tissue are interspersed with ulcerating lesions and nodules
Causes of Sarcoids in Horses
No actual cause has been identified for equine sarcoids. Some researchers have found evidence that the bovine papillomavirus, both types, is a possible contributor. How the disease is transmitted is still a mystery as well.
They will many times develop at or near the site of a previous trauma or injury. While equine sarcoids can develop on any horse at any age, a large number of documented cases occur in horses under 4 years of age.
Diagnosis of Sarcoids in Horses
As soon as you notice any change on your horse’s skin, you should contact your veterinarian for an assessment. Your veterinarian will do a thorough physical examination and do a visual assessment of the affected area.
In some instances, your veterinarian will be able to diagnose the disease based on the appearance and location of the lesions or tumors. A positive diagnosis will be made by performing a biopsy of the area.
Treatment of Sarcoids in Horses
There is no set treatment for equine sarcoids and your veterinarian may suggest several different therapies to treat your horse.
- Surgical removal
- Laser treatments
- Topical chemotherapy drugs
- Radiation therapy
- Heat therapy
- Chemotherapy injections
After removing the sarcoids, recurrence is very common. Your veterinarian may opt to not remove the sarcoid and try different treatments for your horse. In some instances, no treatment is needed at all if the sarcoid is not painful or inflamed.
Recovery of Sarcoids in Horses
Your horse will never be completely cured and recurrence is very common. But your horse can live a normal life by treating the sarcoids by controlling the disease. Once your veterinarian has determined which equine sarcoid your horse is afflicted with and responses to treatment have been documented, the long-term outlook will then be determined. Speak with your veterinarian about long-term management of equine sarcoids.