Horses, these beings endowed with incomparable wisdom, gentleness and strength of character, have been a part of human life for millennia. Over the centuries, horses have helped people in their work and travel, while also providing them with company.
Unfortunately, just like humans, dogs, cats and many others, they too can develop certain forms of cancer that threaten their longevity. Here is a collection of information on the different types of cancer in horses, their causes and symptoms, as well as some ways to help them in their fight.
At Zumalka, our experts have over 20 years of experience in natural health and we have supported thousands of pet owners and their companions with cancer and tumors.
Let's start by demystifying these diseases, and then we will see how to promote good health in your horses in a natural way.
Cancer in Horses
First of all, it’s essential to understand the basics. All cancer is formed when the normal growth mechanism of cells in the body changes, causing these cells to proliferate in a disorderly fashion which in turn causes lumps or tumors to form.
This process disrupts the proper functioning of the body as these masses increase in size, obstruct essential organs, and spread.
Symptoms of cancer in horses
Prevention is the best way to help your horse against cancer. So here is how equine cancer could manifest in your horse:
Swollen lymph nodes
Loss of appetite
Causes of horse cancer
As explained above, cancers develop when the body's cells multiply in an anarchic fashion. As in humans, scientists have difficulty targeting the exact causes of cancer in horses.
In the case of melanoma, it has been reported that genetic mutations responsible for the color of the horse's coat could possibly be responsible for this type of cancer.
Basically, a variety of mutations are thought to be responsible for different types of cancer in horses. Unfortunately, the causes of these mutations are still unknown.
The most common types of cancer in horses
Aside from skin tumors, horses are relatively lucky in terms of their risk of developing cancer, especially compared to humans and small animals. This is a fairly rare diagnosis for them. So, let's start by describing this first type of cancer which is most often diagnosed in these majestic beasts.
Skin cancer in horses
Skin cancer in horses can develop in various form such as sarcoids, melanomas and squamous cell carcinomas. I'll explain to you the differences.
Sarcoids in horses
The most common skin tumors in horses are sarcoids. Sarcoids are the tumors most often diagnosed in horses of all types. That said, sarcoids are generally benign, meaning that they do not metastasize. They can, however, grow considerably and become troublesome for the animal. On the other hand, melanomas are more dangerous.
Melanoma in horses
Melanomas in horses are usually benign, but in some cases can become malignant and spread throughout the body (metastasize). These masses are generally firm and dark in color. If your horse has a dark coat, these lumps are less obvious. So, it's important to be extra vigilant when brushing to be sure you notice any new tumors.
Squamous cell carcinoma in horses
Horses can also develop a type of skin tumor called squamous cell carcinoma. They usually grow in non-pigmented areas of the skin, especially areas not covered with hair such as the eye area and genital area.
Which color horse is more prone to develop skin cancer?
Melanomas are most often found in gray horses. It is therefore important to monitor your gray horse's skin closely for any abnormalities and to have it examined by a vet quickly if you observe a new mass.
Eye cancer in horses
The most common eye cancer found in horses is ocular squamous cell carcinoma. It causes loss of vision in the affected eye and can even lead to loss of the eye. Exposure to the ultraviolet rays contained in sunlight is a risk factor for the development of this type of cancer. Certain breeds of horses are predisposed to this type of cancer; the Haflinger and Appaloosa, among others.
Lymphoma in horses
This type of cancer is caused by the transformation of normal lymphocytes in the blood by neoplastic (cancerous) lymphocytes. These cells, when healthy, allow the body to fight off any microbes intruding into the body through their specific immune response. It’s a group of cancers of the lymph nodes and/or lymphoid tissue. You will therefore understand that this type of cancer is very serious.
Lymphosarcoma in horses
Lymphosarcoma can affect different organs, such as the intestines, skin, chest cavity, or be generalized. As horses are very good at hiding their pain, when the animal is diagnosed because it is showing symptoms, the cancer is often already in advanced stages and these animals usually succumb within 6 months. Lymphosarcoma is actually a type of diffuse, malignant lymphoma.
Cancer of the reproductive system in horses
Breast tumors are less common in horses, but when diagnosed they are rarely benign. Males can develop testicular or prostate tumors. They are less often malignant.
Diagnostic tests and conventional treatments for horse cancer
There is two major steps that are taken when a horse get cancer, the diagnosis and the treatment which both can bring heavy costs.
How to diagnose cancer in a horse?
Cytologies and biopsies
Firstly, if you notice a lump on your horse, your vet will likely suggest that the cells of the lump be analyzed. Cells can be extracted with a needle and placed on a slide, then analyzed under a microscope (cytology). This step can be very helpful in providing diagnostic leads, but sometimes a biopsy is needed for further analysis of the abnormal tissue.
Blood tests also give very good indications and are useful for getting an overview of what is going on in the body. If some organs are not working as well, this could be a sign that cancer is spreading, for example. If your horse has blood cancer, certain markers can point the diagnosis in the right direction.
Medical imaging techniques, such as x-rays or magnetic resonance, may be needed to determine if your horse has metastases or masses on its internal organs.
Conventional treatments for horse cancer
As with small animals, your vet can direct you to a treatment plan suited to the type and stage of your horse's cancer. The main treatment options for cancer in horses are surgical removal of masses, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. As you might expect, most of these therapeutic options involve your animal visiting a veterinary referral center, as small veterinary clinics will not necessarily have the facilities or/and equipment required for radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatment, for example.
Surgery for an animal of this size can easily run into the thousands of dollars. Chemotherapy can cause some side effects, such as hair loss, colic, hypersensitivity or lethargy, but ultimately can help the animal gain some quality of life.
Radiation therapy is often used in conjunction with surgical removal, as its aim is to shrink the size of the tumor and prevent the spread of abnormal cells in the body.
Now let's talk about natural products!
A natural product to promote the good health of your horse
Many people are looking for natural treatments or home remedies for their horse's cancer. At Zumalka, we invite you to learn more about our 100% natural product, specially designed to help your pet maintain good health.
In conclusion, horses deserve our full attention and care when they are not at their best. You now have more tools to deal with this scourge and we wish you the best of luck with your companion.
Have you ever experienced this fight with one of your horses? If you feel up to it, share your story in the comments below.
Would you like to talk to one of our natural health experts about your pet's specific case? Fill out this form to get a free consultation with a member of our team.
ANIMAL HEALTH TECHNICIAN
Véronique Fournier shares her extensive pet health know-how on Zumalka through her articles.
Véronique’s background as an animal wellness advocate began in Cégep La Pocatière in Quebec, which led to comprehensive internships and training with respect to the breeding, rehabilitation, and monitoring of various types of animals. The institutions she has worked with include the Quebec Aquarium and the SOS Miss Dolittle shelter, just to name a few.
Her immersion with various veterinary clinics in British Columbia and other places has made Veronique not just knowledgeable, but also quite perceptive in zeroing in on the right strategy to help keep pets in the best of health.
And can we get you in on a secret? Veronique shares that she has already made a lot of canine pals due to her stint as a foster mom in several shelters. Isn’t that cool?
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