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Sarcoids are a common equine skin tumor. They can be found on their own or in a cluster and they can vary in size from a few millimetres to several centimetres.

They are commonly found on the head, neck, belly, behind the elbow, the girth area, the inside of the thighs and around the sheath or udder. They vary in appearance and can be either smooth, wart-like or a flat, bumpy area of skin with no hair.

As Sarcoids grow they sometimes ulcerate and become infected. This is when they become problematic as they do not heal.


Sarcoids often develop in other areas and they also often reoccur. Depending on the size, site and number of sarcoids your vet will advise you which is the most appropriate treatment. Treatment options include:

Rubber Band
Using a special instrument, the vet will apply a thick rubber band to the base of the tumour to cut off its blood supply. This is only appropriate for single tumors with a narrow base. After 2 - 3 weeks the tumour will drop off, but usually there is swelling and discharge before this occurs.

This is where the tumour is frozen to -25°c and then is allowed to slowly thaw, then it is refrozen. It can be done under deep sedation but it often requires general anaesthetic. After treatment the tumour tissue dies and drops off after around 2 weeks. During this time there is a lot of discharge and you must ensure the area is regularly cleaned.

Surgical Removal
Under local or general anaesthetic, the tumours are removed. If it is possible the wound is stitched and after 10 days the stitches are removed. If the wound it too large the area is left open to heal on its own, and during the healing process the wound must be kept clean and dry.

Injection of the BCG Vaccine
This method is usually used if the tumour is sited somewhere awkward, eg. the eyelid, and surgical removal isn't an option. The BCG vaccine is injected into the tumour and the horse's immune system rejects the foreign vaccine from its body and hopefully the tumour at the same time. The treatment is repeated at 1 - 3 week intervals until the tumour reduces. During this period there will be swelling and discharge and you will need to keep the area clean. This treatment has a 50 - 60% success rate but the major disadvantage of it is that it carries a small risk of inducing anaphylactic shock due to the injection of a foreign protein.

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