Horse Sarcoid: What is it & How to Treat it
Our recent social media posts about a horse sarcoid remedy has generated a great deal of interest. There are a lot of questions about what horse sarcoids are, where they come from and how best to treat them. First, I’m not a veterinarian so if your horse has sarcoids please have your veterinarian take a look so they can provide you with professional guidance on how to deal with the ugly buggers.
The skin is the largest organ on a horse's body and utilizes keratin, collagen and elastin to help protect the horse. The skin requires high-quality protein, B vitamins, beta-carotene (Vitamin A), Vitamin D and balanced minerals to remain healthy. Warts, sarcoids, hyper-sensitivity to bug bites, dermatitis and reactions to foods can all affect the condition of a horse’s skin, and are regulated by the immune system so if your horse has sarcoids, boosting their immune health may provide them with the support they need to combat the virus.
What are horse sarcoids?
Sarcoids are persistent, ugly and progressive skin tumors that affect all breeds of horses. They account for approximately 40% of all equine cancers and are non-painful and non-itchy. Sarcoids in horses do not spread to other organ systems, do not self-cure, are not known to be contagious but will often spread to other areas on an infected horse’s body because the virus is in their system.
What causes sarcoids?
Sarcoids are believed to be caused by the bovine papilloma virus carried in the saliva of flies. Researchers have found a genetic component so some horses are more susceptible to the disease, but any breed of horse can get sarcoids. It isn’t often that you hear anyone talk about the immune health of the horse in discussions about steroids, but I have noticed that horses with aural plaques and/or sarcoids often have other allergies.
How do you treat sarcoids?
Treatment of horse sarcoids often depends on the type of sarcoid, where it is located, and the sarcoid's level of aggressiveness. These are all questions for your veterinarian to answer. The plaque may require a biopsy to get a definitive diagnosis to guide the treatment regimens but it seems to be a pretty good idea to get rid of the sarcoid when you notice it instead of waiting to see if it decides to become more “involved”.
Here are some of the more common approaches to horse sarcoid treatment:
- Surgical Treatment: Surgical treatments include surgical removal, cryosurgery (freezing) or laser surgery. Surgical removal without additional therapy has poor success rates. Surgery followed by freezing (cryotherapy) improves success rates somewhat but the majority of sarcoids still return following this approach.
- Radiation Treatment: Radiation therapy in the form of brachytherapy has been described as a successful long-term treatment for sarcoids. This treatment involves hospitalization of the horse so the sarcoid can be safely implanted with radioactive seeds. This has implications for care of these horses during the treatment period as access is limited to visual checks only due to radiation safety concerns for veterinary staff.
- Topical Treatment: Topical treatment with a variety of creams and ointments are available. Success depends on the type of sarcoid, it’s depth and level of involvement and consistency of application. There is often a burning sensation associated with these topical creams, which can present problems if the horse decides they are not going to cooperate and allow continued application.
- Freezing: There is a treatment that involves freezing the bovine papilloma virus in liquid nitrogen and reinjecting it into the horse to increase their own immunity to the virus. This has shown remarkably good success but it is expensive and is not widely available. As always, there are some sarcoids that do not respond to this therapy.
- Food Supplements: Feed through options have shown remarkable success at resolving sarcoids. They include turmeric, bovine colostrum and spirulina. StableFeed’s boosted Spirulina formulation has been incredibly effective at reducing and resolving horse sarcoids. The size of the sarcoid dictates the length of time it takes for complete resolution, but the horse doesn’t seem to be in pain during the natural course of healing. We recently finished a 6 month veterinary study where our sarcoid horses ate our spirulina chia for six months. We saw complete resolution of two sarcoids and an average reduction in size of 13% on all but one sarcoid in the first month. This rate of resolution continued until the end of the study.
We are now following two horses who are on this boosted Spirulina Chia formulation. The results are nothing short of amazing. We will post images as they progress.
Coming in the next blog: Name that Horse Sarcoid!