Sarcoids are a common skin disease of horses that should be viewed as a form of skin cancer. It is a tumour of fibroblasts, which are normal skin cells, therefore sarcoids only affect the skin and subcutis and do not spread to other organs.
The cause is generally unknown, but papilloma virus is almost certainly involved. Sarcoids tend to multiply and grow in size at varying rates. Ulcerated sarcoids attract flies, which are thought to be responsible for the spread of sarcoids on the individual horse. Sarcoids can form anywhere in the body. Lesions around eyes, joints, coronary bands or on wound sites can cause severe problems.
Behaviour of sarcoids is unpredictable . A lesion could stay unchanged for months or years and suddenly grow and /or ulcerate. All sarcoids should be treated as soon as they are spotted to increase the chances of successful treatment.
The treatment is difficult and can be expensive, but it is easier to treat a small, benign looking lesion rather than a large ulcerated one!
There are many treatment options, but to date the most successful and cost effective topical treatment is a cytotoxic cream (AW4-LUDES).
When your Vet suspects the presence of a sarcoid, a picture of the lesion will be taken and sent to a specialist team at Liverpool University who will advise a treatment protocol.
The AW4 LUDES cream is extremely toxic and it is only available to vets. Treatment often consists of a course of 3-6 applications, which will be done by your vet. During treatment, horses may develop swelling and ulceration of the area. This is painful and horses may become dull. This is part of the treatment and normally of short duration.
Pain killers can be administered to decrease discomfort and inflammation.
The treated sarcoid will change appearance and become black and hard and then will gradually drop off.
Please remember that sarcoids will often look worse before they get better. Sarcoids in difficult areas, such as around eyes, may need a different treatment (BCG injections or radiation therapy) due to the sensitive location.
An alternative treatment is removal by laser – this can be an option if the sarcoid is in an awkward place or the horse has previously reacted badly to the cream.
For more detailed information , please visit equinesarcoids.co.uk