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Service Information

  • Sarcoids

    Sarcoids are a form of skin tumour and affect up to 8% of the horse population commonly between the ages of 2 and 10 years. They can spread to different sites within the skin but they very seldom spread to affect the internal organs. They are thought to be caused by the virus associated with warts in cattle and their spread is likely to be affected by flies.

    Peri-orbital sarcoid
    Fibroblastic sarcoid

    Sarcoids are usually found between the front and back legs, on the belly, groin, scrotum, sheath and face including the eyelids.

    They are usually non painful and horses generally seem unaware of them unless they become infected when they become a major attraction to flies.

    They can become problematic when they interfere with the placement of tack.

    All our vets are experienced in providing a diagnosis and a guide to all treatment options.

    Sarcoids can be confused with other skin diseases so a skin biopsy can sometimes be useful in confirming a diagnosis.

    It is recommended that all sarcoids are treated at the earliest opportunity.

    There are several different treatment options available ranging from the ligation or banding of individual sarcoids, to the application of topical cytotoxic cream through to surgical removal using a carbon dioxide laser.

    No one treatment is associated with a 100% success rate (lack of recurrence). Realistically a success rate of between 40 – 60% can be expected using topical creams and ligation.

    Laser surgery, however, can be associated with a success rate of over 90%.

    Failure of any treatment technique can be associated with the recurrence of more aggressive tumours, so it is important to select the most appropriate treatment option in the first instance.


    Treatment can be challenging and several options are available.

    Individual sarcoids can be ligated using lamb castration rings.

    Topical cytotoxic cream, ordered from Liverpool University (Liverpool Cream), can be applied to the sarcoid every 2 to 3 days for between 3 and 5 treatments. The cream is toxic so must be applied by a vet. It penetrates deep into the tissue which can result in significant swelling and pain. The sarcoid tissue turns black and hard, separating from the underlying tissue over several weeks.

    Photodynamic therapy uses light sensitive cream to selectively destroy tumour cells and serial BCG injections can be very effective in the treatment of sarcoids around the eye.

    CO2 laser is generally seen as current gold standard treatment and is associated with the best success rate.


    The least aggressive and appear as hairless areas of skin that are often circular. They can be confused with ringworm lesions.


    They are often grey and wart like in appearance. Affected skin is thickened, hairless and folded. Interference can make them more aggressive.

    Occult sarcoid appearing as hairless scurfy areas of skin.
    Wart like appearance of a verrucous sarcoid.


    They are firm round nodules of various size which can be attached or unattached to the overlying skin. They can become ulcerated.


    These are large fleshy ulcerated masses that bleed easily. They can have a narrow stalk like or broad base to them.

    A nodular sarcoid in the groin.
    The ulcerated surface of several fibroblastic sarcoids.


    A mixture of two or more of the above types of sarcoid.


    They are extensive, aggressive and spread through out the skin and underlying tissues.

    Mixed sarcoid, several types of sarcoid present.
    Malignant Sarcoid present throughout skin.
    Jeremy performing laser surgery in a standing patient

    Towcester and Onley Equine Vets work closely with Jeremy Kemp-Symonds MRCVS who specialises in the treatment of horses with skin tumours. He visits the clinic every month and appointments can be made via reception.

    Jeremy uses CO2 lasers approved in human tumour surgery which minimise bleeding, seeding of tumour cells at the wound site and improve healing time. Surgery can be performed in the standing patient but often due to the position and number of sarcoids present laser surgery often necessitates the administration of a general anaesthetic.

    You can visit his website for more information.

    Equine Tumor/Sarcoid Removal Using CO2 Laser

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