We believe that sarcoids should be viewed as a form of skin cancer. If you find anything that looks suspicious on your horse and may be a form of skin cancer please consult your vet immediately. Where sarcoids are concerned, it is usually better to contact your vet as soon as you notice the condition rather than waiting for it to improve or “treating” it with methods recommended by non-vets. Sarcoids are not easy to treat – there are over 40 treatments worldwide proving that there is no one universally effective treatment – the best treatment method should be applied in the first instance, as each unsuccessful treatment attempt results in a 40% decrease in success of further treatments.
Try to avoid reference to unqualified people, the only person who can give you sensible and balanced advice is your vet. We often see cases where owners have taken treatment into their own hands, which more often than not are very difficult to treat due to this. Not every sarcoid responds in the same way as another, whether they are in the same location or look similar. We recommend taking advice from vets who have seen many cases rather than from owners who had their horses’ sarcoid treated by one particular method.
The likelihood for recurrence with sarcoids is high, so do not be disappointed if the sarcoid “comes back”. Do not expect a 100% cure rate as a horse with sarcoids will always have the propensity to develop further lesions later in life.
Buying a horse with sarcoids
It is the responsibility of the seller to declare whether the horse has had sarcoid – whether they are cured, self-resolved or still present. You should enquire specifically about sarcoids if thinking about purchasing a horse. If the horse is perfect in every other way do not necessarily condemn it out of hand! The commercial value of a horse with even one sarcoid is often less on the open market than the same horse without (this may not apply to high performance racehorses etc).
The presence of sarcoid is a major cause of failure at pre-purchase examination. Scars at old sarcoid sites can be mistaken for wound scars, so purchasers and vets need to be very careful! Many vets have a harsh attitude towards sarcoids and will advise against purchase, however the buyer should base the decision on the whole package and advice that the vet gives. Sometimes a vet will ask for a second opinion from us on a vetting which will usually outline prospective treatment options and costs.
Insurance companies will not accept the risk of sarcoids. If the horse has even a single suspicious lesion at the time of proposal or has a history of having had sarcoids the insurance will usually not cover for them. Prior to finalising a purchase you should check this with the insurance company.
If you decide to purchase a horse with sarcoids it is usually better to get them treated sooner rather than later. Treatment is likely to be expensive and ongoing, with repeated treatments throughout the life of the horse potentially being required.