Sarcoids in Horses - Help the Cure
I bought Ziggie as a four year old from a dealer who had shipped him over from Ireland just a few weeks before I bought him (this is relevant). He was a gangly, goofy Irish cob with shocking feet. But his personality won me over, not a good reason to buy a horse, but I have to say it was love at first sight.
But no more than a month into having him and he developed two 'angleberries' (as they were once called), the more recognised term for them being Fibroblastic Sarcoids. They began as bulbous growths that eventually developed stalks and ultimately hung between his two front legs. They didn't seem to bother him, but they were unsightly and the use of a martingale was completely out of the question.
Soon after these two sarcoids appeared a nodular sarcoid developed on his near fore fetlock.
I called out the vet. He tied off the two angleberries, took photographs and explained the Liverpool Cream treatment to me. It was a fairly new therapy then. Anyway, he talked me into it as being the prefferred course of action.
By the time the Liverpool Cream arrived Ziggies two angleberries were already starting to reappear. The cream was applied to the area between his front legs and to his fetlock joint, subsequent visits followed until the full application had been used. I watched with interest and then with increasing horror.
Now I am not here to put you off any patented treatment and I do know of other horses who have received this treatment and responded well to it. But Ziggie isn't one of them.
The entire area between Ziggies front legs became grossly inflammed. It became hard to the touch and more alarmingly still, a large plug of proud tissue began to separate and raise from the surrounding healthy flesh. As viable tissue began to heal from beneath, the plug gradually separated and sloughed away. it was disgusting and alarming but had apparently worked.
His fetlock joint however was a different story. The same plug of proud tissue developed and his entire fetlock swelled alarmingly. Overnight in his stable he managed to knock this plug off, leaving a large hole deep enough for me to clearly see the joint capsule. No harm came to him ultimately, other than the frank discomfort he was put through. The fetlock sarcoid did not come back but he does have a bald patch there now. However, over time the angleberries did return and more aggressively than before.
Worse than that his sarcoids started to gallop across his body. He developed every sort of sarcoid its possible to develop. Large vascular fibroblastic ones, flat occult discs all along his belly and down his neck. Nodular and Verrucose on his legs. The large vascular fibroblastic and nodular sarcoids were torment in the summer during the heavy fly season, they were clearly sore and would often bleed and weep.
I already felt that Ziggies immune system had to be compromised.
Opportunistic skin complaints tend to flourish when the immune system is down or in some way compromised. Normally the immune system keeps them under control, but they need only a small window of opportunity to take hold. Herpes (cold sores) warts on hands and feet are all culprits and it is no coincidence atall that people suffering from compromised or suppressed immunity, such as in HIV often have florid out breaks of these viral complaints.
As a podiatrist I had noticed that adults who presented with verruca could often site a time of stress or illness prior to the verruca developing. Patients will often complain (bitterly) that they have never had a verruca, have been nowhere near swimming baths and have no one in the family with one. They are always at a loss to know where the damn thing came from.
Ziggie had been taken from his home and friends to a horse market somewhere in Ireland, then shipped across that choppy sea to England where he had spent a month in a dealers yard before I came along. A great deal of stress for any animal arguably but for Ziggie, who isn't the bravest horse in the world, knowing him as I do now, it would have been shattering for him. He didn't just have the sarcoids rampaging all over him, he was also suffering from idiopathic colic and immature gut. So his digestion was down too, a sure sign in any horse that stress is at the root.
Whilst sarcoids are not warts in the strict sense, they are 'probably' viral and therefore it seemed plausible to me that Ziggies suspected underlying immunity issue could be treated in the same way as verruca.
Just to explain. Viruses hide within the body cells. In a way they disguise themselves so that the immune system does not automatically recognise them as alien. Whilst you and I can see and feel a verruca very easily, to the body it is 'part' of the tissue and the body does not attack it. We all have these viruses in our system, hand warts, foot warts, herpes, cold sores and usually our immune system keeps them in abeyance, but sometimes, under stress, after illness when our immune system has been weakened these opportunists strike.
I cannot say if this is the same with sarcoids, but it would appear to be so, from my experience with Ziggie anyway.
I gave him six months on an ayurvedic herbal mix called Immuplus from Global Herbs. I didn't ride him, but to be honest i couldn't anyway, so I turned him away for this entire time. His larger, fibroblastic sarcoids were clearly painful and the occult discs spreading across his belly and chest made putting a saddle on impossible
Well we struggled through that summer frankly. The flies were merciless and his sarcoids were spreading like wild fire. I had no idea if what i was doing would help him and whilst we went through this summer of hell I listened out for other treatments on the market. Each therapy seemed to have mixed results. Nothing seemed to offer comprehensive treatment and I couldn't help but feel a tad reluctant to go for anything like freezing or surgery when the Liverpool Cream had apparently caused his angleberries to spread and the organism behind these lesions had taken off all over his body.
After these six months i called in my vet. It was a different practice to the one id used before with the LIverpool Cream so the vet had not seen his sarcoids up until this point.
I can honestly say he was shocked. The number, nature and variety left him fairly convinced that there would be no comprehensive treatment for Ziggie. That he would almost certainly always have sarcoids. That it would probably mean freezing them every year to keep them under some sort of control. I also remember him saying very gently that there may well come a point, quite soon, when we should consider Ziggies quality of life.
He tied off two of the worst fibroblastic sarcoids and told me that i should contact him in a fortnight to bring Ziggie into the clinic to freeze the others. And by others I believe i counted 27.
Not only did I wonder if it was even fair to put Ziggie through such a treatment, i was pretty sure that since Ziggie already had a history of sarcoids from his previous vet, there would be no help from my insurers. To say I was depressed is an understatement.
But within the week Ziggies sarcoids began to dissappear, one by one. Even the ones that had not been treated in any way slowly but surely receded. The ones tied off reduced rapidly in size and dissappeared completely. All of the flat discs had completely gone within a fortnight.
This is my eigth year with Ziggie now and he has remained sarcoid free.
So, how did this happen? I turned him away and removed all stress from his young body and allowed him to be a horse with other horses. I don't believe its necessary to turn away for as long as I did or even to turn away atall, but certainly ensure that stress is kept to a minimum. Then i treated him systemically.
There are BCG injections now i believe that work by boosting the immune system to the site of a sarcoid. I have no idea if this therapy treats systemically or not. I am assuming that since it is injected directly into the lesion that it is more local than general.
The ayurdivic herbs were administered orally through his bucket feed so they're affect was systemic. They went through his entire body system and boosted his bodies immunity from within.
When the vet tied off two of the larger fibroblastic sarcoids the immune system was drawn to that area (you're basic inflammatory response). Because the immune system was boosted its ability to 'recognise' the virus as an alien intruder was greatly enhanced. Once equipped with that information the immune system was able to go through his entire body and erradicate it.
So, why didn't this happen when he had such a strong inflammatory response to the Liverpool Cream? i could be way off beam here, but i believe that whilst his body was attempting to heal itself his immune system remained suppressed. Therefore the treatment that he was given was merely treating the apparent lesion not the underlying disease process.
I do feel that boosting the horses immunity prior to you're chosen treatment is the best way forward in enabling the horse to develop its immunity to the sarcoids. I feel that treating systemically rather than just locally is dealing with the depressed immunity as well as enabling any and all treatment to achieve its full potential.
However im not a vet and im not a pathologist, but working from the premis that my verruca patients have enjoyed good results from boosting their immunity prior to treatment it is a reasonable leap to make.
Of course Ziggie is just one case and maybe various other things pulled together, for all I know he found a herb in his field and healed himself!
If you have a horse with sarcoids you have my sincerest empathy. If you decide to give this complimentary treatment a chance then I would love to hear from you and either way I wish you and you're horse well.
PS: To anyone suffering from verruca, Global Herbs do an Immuplus human equivalent. (and no im not getting any royalties from plugging their product!)
www.globalherbs.co.za/ - this is their official site and worth a browse. You will see something called sarcx for sarcoids but that requires veterinary assistance and is not an immune booster perse. The product I used on Ziggie was ImmuPlus for his immune system.
Below are a couple of links to sites that give some interesting information, advice and insight into herbal use in the management of horses, their ailments, temperament and maintenance.
Useful information on sarcoids
- Stable Close Equine Practice: EQUINE SARCOIDS
Sarcoid information for horse owners
- Global Herbs - Global Herbs Online Store
Herbs for Horses - ayuerdivic. Look for Immuplus, that's the one used on Ziggie