There are many different types of cancer that are found in horses. Below are the names and descriptions of each cancer known to attack horses.
Lipoma: benign fatty tumor: soft & squishy to the touch
Sarcoids: skin cancer: circular area of hair loss, grey scaly
Advanced Sarcoids: skin / lymph node cancer: lumpy and ulcerated
Melanoma: skin cancer: firm, dome-shaped lumps
Squamous Cell Carcinoma: skin or organ lining cancer: open sore, scaly red patches, warts
Lymphoma: tumor of the lymph nodes: solid growths, enlarged lymph nodes
What to Look for / Warning Signs:
If you’re noticing anything out of the ordinary with your horse, like growths, hair loss, or open sores, you need to take your horse to an equine veterinarian for blood tests as soon as possible. These are very serious signs of cancer in horses.
There are also signs of cancer that do not show as prominently as others. Lipoma and Lymphoma are two types of cancer that have warning signs a little harder to notice. Lipoma causes a soft, fatty tumor, and in the early stages of this cancer, the tumor may be very discrete in size and not easily felt. Lymphoma causes solid growths and enlarged lymph nodes which are not as noticeable as well. Cancerous lumps can form anywhere, including the mouth, eyes, nose and under the tail, for a few examples.
Other signs of cancer include abdominal distension, chronic weight loss, chronic vomiting or diarrhea, unexplained bleeding, a dry, non-productive cough, lameness, straining to urinate, and oral odor.
Cancer is caused when cells start to proliferate in a disorganized way, and preventing this development is still being researched, so catching cancer in its early stages and getting the horse proper treatment is the best course of action horse owners can take.
When it comes to finding out if a horse has cancer or not, there are many approaches similar to the way humans are checked for cancer. Biopsies are used when lumps are noticed and a malignant tumor is suspected, the same way when a human is suspected of having a malignant tumor.
With other types of cancer that cause the abdomen to be pushed out, vomiting, or weight loss, radiographs, ultrasounds, or endoscopies may help determine where and how serious any tumors are. Radiographs are helpful with dry coughs, lameness, straining to urinate, or when unusual oral odor indicates a serious internal problem.
Treatments can include surgery, laser surgery, chemotherapy, anti –cancer drugs, and for some skin cancer, a simple cream can be used the keep the cancer cells from multiplying and spreading.