Rare skin diseases in horses
Tumors are abnormal growths of cells. Tumors affecting the skin or the tissue just under the skin are the most commonly seen tumors in horses. Skin tumors are diagnosed more frequently in part because they are the most easily seen tumors and in part because the skin is constantly exposed to the external environment and the many tumor-causing factors in the environment. Chemicals, solar radiation, and viruses are just some of the things that can cause skin tumors. Hormonal abnormalities and genetic factors may also play a role in the development of tumors in and close to the skin.
All of the various layers and components of skin have the potential of developing distinctive tumors. Skin tumors can appear in many forms. Distinguishing a tumor from an inflammatory disease can sometimes be difficult. Tumors are usually small lumps or bumps, but they also can occur as hairless or discolored patches, wheals, or nonhealing ulcers. Because skin tumors are so diverse, identifying them should be left to a veterinarian.
Tumors may be benign or malignant (cancerous). Benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body. Malignant tumors can spread and cause harm to the horse. Several types of malignant tumors of the skin are relatively common in horses, including melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and sarcoids. Distinguishing a benign tumor from a malignant tumor requires specialized knowledge and laboratory equipment. A veterinarian can perform a fine needle aspiration of cells or a biopsy (a procedure that removes a small amount of tissue from a tumor) for further examination.
Treatment depends largely on the type of tumor, its location and size, and the overall physical condition of the horse. For benign tumors that are not ulcerated and do not impair the horse's normal routine, no treatment may be necessary. This may be the most prudent option, especially in aged horses. For malignant tumors or benign tumors that inhibit normal activities or are cosmetically unpleasant, there are several treatment options. For most tumors, surgical removal is the most effective. It is also probably the least costly option and the one with the fewest adverse effects. If malignancy is suspected, a margin of tissue surrounding the tumor will also be removed. For tumors that cannot be completely removed, partial removal may prolong the life of the horse. Radiation treatment or chemotherapy may also be used to provide your horse...
Although squamous cell carcinomas can arise on any part of the body, in horses they are seen most frequently in nonpigmented, poorly haired areas near mucous membranes. Thus, the tumors can be seen most frequently around the eyes, lips, nose, anus, and external genitalia (especially the sheath around the penis). Most squamous cell carcinomas are solitary tumors. They appear as raised, irregular masses with either ulcers or pimples. Solitary tumors grow slowly. Thus, these tumors are often overlooked until defects appear on the ear tips, openings of the nose, or eyelids.
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