Friday, 21 October 2016

All About ... Sarcoids.

What are they

Sarcoids are skin tumours and they are relatively common.   They don't spread to the internal organs and are not life threatening but can affect a horse's ability to work.  Chesney had some verrucous sarcoids when he was quite young around his sheath area and developed another under his eye when he was 16 years old.


  • Wart like growths 
  • One or several, they vary in size 
  • Usually found on the chest, abdomen, inside the back legs, around the sheath, and around the eyes and ears 
  • Growths can have a thick and crusty surface 
  • Or may be raw, ulcerated and bleeding
However, there are several types of sarcoid and each can look different.

  • Fibroblastic: are aggressive sarcoids.  They often ulcerate and can be invasive. 
  • Malevolent: these are the most aggressive type. They spread through the skin and lymph vessels.  They can become large. 
  • Mixed: a combination of the other types. 
  • Nodular: these are lumps under the skin, skin is shiny and the lumps vary in size. 
  • Occult: appear as an area of hair loss (a bit like ringworm). 
  • Verrucous: are like warts and are often grey in colour.  There are often several and they are deeper.


The cause of sarcoids is not definitely known. They are thought to be caused by a papilloma virus but this has not been proven.  Insects may contribute to the development (transfer) of the condition because the common sites are the areas where they congregate.


Call the vet.  Early treatment is important and usually effective, once the sarcoids become bigger they are more difficult to treat.  


There are a number of different treatments and some work on some horses but not on others.  Type of treatment will depend on the type of sarcoid and where it is on the horse.  They do tend to reoccur.  

The tumours can be surgically removed.  Ligation is another option which involves putting a tight band around the base of the tumour until it falls off.  Both of these options have the risk of leaving some cells behind which will then mean the tumour grows back.

Cryotherapy is another option when the tumour is frozen, this requires several treatments.  Immune therapy is another option which involves injecting the horse with BCG which will stimulate the immune system.  Radiation therapy is another option or laser removal.

There are creams available which do work in some cases.  Chesney was treated with a cream on both occasions and although he needed several  applications - which had to be done by the vet - they did go.


As the cause is not known prevention is difficult.  Some horses will get sarcoids, some won't. 

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Until next time!

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