Phoebe Parker


Sarcoids are the most common form of equine skin tumour, they are classified as low grade fibrosarcomas (tumours). Although common, sarcoids vary greatly in appearance and size and the nature in which they grow and the response to treatment. It is this variability which makes them such a challenge for owners and vets to manage and treat. Certain breeds are more commonly affected with thoroughbreds being over represented. Geldings appear to be more commonly affected than mares. Although a tumour, sarcoids do not spread internally. Sarcoids may rise at any site on the skin but most commonly at sites where flies land; chest, groin, sheath, belly and around the face as well as at sites of previous or current wounds. The majority of cases arise between the years 3 to 6 of age, however they may appear later in life. It is thought that flies play a role in the spread of sarcoids between horses.

There are various types:


Appear as hairless grey scaly , rough circular patches of mildly thickened skin. They are the least distinctive and often mistaken for rubs or ringworm.

Verrucous (warty) sarcoids

Wart like in their appearance and often greyish in colour. They are usually slow growing and not aggressive however any interference or trauma may result in these lesions changing to a more aggressive form of sarcoid. They are commonly found around the face, armpit and sheath regions of the body. They may appear singularly or coalesce into groups forming larger lesions.

Nodular sarcoids

Firm and nodular in nature these sarcoids are more common in the eyelid, armpit, inside thigh and groin regions. Often the nodules are freely mobile under the skin although they may be attached to overlying skin. The overlying skin is usually normal but may start to thin and ulcerate. They may remain static in size for many years but can become aggressive if interfered.


Fibroblastic sarcoids are often aggressive and have a fleshy granulomatous appearance.  Sometimes they are pedunculated but can also be firmly attached.  Fibroblastic sarcoids can also develop on wounds and may closely resemble proud flesh.


This is the most aggressive form of sarcoid and most commonly affects the face, elbow and inside thigh regions of the body. Can spread over a wider area and quickly grow in size. They appear like ulcerated nodules but tending to group into larger bundles. This form of sarcoid is more difficult to treat but is rarer.

There may be lesions/sarcoids that display qualities of two or more sarcoid types. It is important to note that no two sarcoids are the same and treatment and response to treatment may vary between sarcoids.


There are a range of treatment options available, dependent on type of tumor, location of the tumor and your budget.  Common treatment methods include the use of creams such as Liverpool Cream, the use of a ring around the tumour, supplements and / or laser treatment and / or a range of alternative therapies.

If you think your horse may be suffering from sarcoids, please give the practice a call so that we can review and consider if treatment is recommended.

Top Ten Equine ‘Strangles’ Guidelines

1. If you think your horse may have Strangles and need advice?

Call the practice on 01306 627 706. We will be able to offer some guidance and arrange for one of our vets to make a visit.

2. What causes ‘Strangles’?

Strangles is a highly contagious infectious disease of the upper respiratory tract. Strangles is caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus equi (S.equi) and affects horses, ponies and donkeys.

3. What are the main clinical signs?

• Depression and dullness
• Loss of appetite
• Nasal discharge
• Development of a cough
• High temperature
• Swelling of the lymph nodes (glands) under the jaw or on the head or neck which can lead to abscess formation at a later stage

The abscesses which cause the lymph nodes to swell may burst discharging highly infectious, creamy-yellow pus. In some cases the glands swell so much they restrict the airway, hence the name strangles.

4. What is the incubation period / when will I first see symptoms?

The incubation period of strangles is on average 7 to 14 days. However, because infected horses can shed the bacterium for long periods after symptoms have stopped showing, the interval of time between new cases in an outbreak can be up to 3 weeks or more.

5. How is it transmitted / passed between horses?

Strangles can be spread easily by direct contact between horses or indirectly by handlers, equipment or contamination of the environment. This can lead to large outbreaks with many horses becoming infected if strict biosecurity measures are not put in place and adhered to. For example, the infection can be spread:

• by direct contact such as nose to nose contact between horses
• via equipment shared with infected horses, such as:
• water troughs where the bacterium can survive for long periods
• feed buckets
• grooming equipment
• tack / clothing

6. How long can items such as grooming kits and buckets harbor the disease for?

On water buckets in particular, the bacteria can live for long periods, and up to approximately one month. However, using proper anti-bacterial cleaners such as Virkon will kill the bacteria quickly.

7. What can you use to clean your items to kill the Strangles?

Most anti-bacterial cleaners will be effective at killing Strangles. We have had success with Virkon which can be found here:

8. How is it diagnosed?

There are three main methods of diagnosis:

a) Swabbing is where three consecutive swabs are taken at weekly intervals and sent for testing in a lab.

b) Testing via endoscopy has been said to be the most reliable method. A sample is taken directly from the guttural pouch in the throat and sent for testing. This can also determine whether a horse is a carrier or not.

c) Blood tests identify if a horse has antibodies to the Strangles bacteria in their bloodstream. Antibodies are produced approximately two weeks following exposure to the bacteria and last up to six months.

Horses that have been exposed to the bacteria in the last six months will test positive.

9. What is the treatment and is there anything else I should be concerned about?

Treatment is a largely debated subject. Some say the bacteria should be left to run its course on its own without treatment, some say it should be treated aggressively with penicillin. This will be a joint decision with you as an owner and your vet.

There is a second form of Strangles called ‘purpura haemorrhagica’ which is associated with a previous bout of strangles. The head, legs and underbelly of the horse are most often affected and it also causes bleeding into the skin, gums (seen as areas of red spotting) and organs such as the lungs. It can prove fatal within a very short period of time and therefore an exceptionally quick diagnosis is very important.

A third form of Strangles also exists known as Bastard Strangles which can be a complication from the initial infection. It can be seen in the abdominal or lung lymph nodes which may develop abscesses and rupture, sometimes weeks or longer after the first infection seems to have resolved. In severe cases abscesses may rupture in the brain causing sudden death or abscess may burst in the throat and the pus will be inhaled into the lung.

10. How long will it take to recover?

On average the standard form of Strangles can take ten to fourteen days to run its course without drug intervention, this depends on the severity of the case and the general health of the horse at the time of infection. It should however be kept in mind that the bacteria may continue to shed after symptoms have left and therefore testing on more than one occasion after symptoms have gone is recommended.

Other queries?

Please call the practice and we would be happy to help.

Please also review the HBLB Strangles guidelines in the Codes of Practice ( and Strategy To Eradicate and Prevent Strangles (STEPS at

This guide is for information purposes only, if you suspect your horse may have strangles please call the practice and arrange a visit from a vet. The opinions presented in the Guidelines are subject to change and should not be considered to be a treatment recommendation for any individual patient. We cannot attest to the accuracy, completeness or currency of the opinions contained herein and does not accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage caused to any patient or any third party as a result of any reliance being placed on these Guidelines or as a result of any inaccurate or misleading opinion contained in the Guidelines.



Pinworms are a common topic for questions from our clients.  They are not harmful to your horse but their lifecycle can cause significant irritation.

Pinworms, Oxyuris equi, are small roundworms that live in your horses large intestine.  The females migrate from here to the anus where they lay their eggs on the skin surrounding it. It is these sticky eggs that irritate your horse and can cause them to rub and itch around the base of their tail and anus.  These eggs can hatch and be infective within a few days or drop off and remain dormant for months in the environment.

How do I know if my horse has pinworms

Unlike many other worms, pinworms cannot be detected using a faecal egg count.

  • Your horse may be itchy around their tail base and anus
  • Eggs are sometimes visible around the anus as a yellow, sticky mass.
  • Your vet can perform and adhesive tape test and identify the pinworm eggs with a microscope.

How do I treat for pinworms?

Pinworms are sensitive to the same drugs that you would use in a regular worming program. Ivermectin, moxidectin, fenbendazole and pyrantel are all usually effective.  If you are treating for pinworm you should also wash your horses perineal region (anus and area under their tail) regularly to remove any existing eggs.


Mud Fever

Mud Fever

It’s that time of year where mud fever is a problem many horse owners will be faced with.  Mud fever or pastern dermatitis is a common bacterial infection usually seen on the heel bulbs and back of the pastern.  There is usually a dominant bacteria such as Dermatophilus congolensis but the condition is frequently a complex mix of different bacterial and fungal species.

What does mud fever look like?

  • Matted hair with crusting and scabs
  • Small, ulcerated, moist lesions
  • Thick, creamy, yellow/white/green discharge
  • Deep cracks in the skin
  • Hair loss (alopecia)
  • Heat, pain, swelling with possible associated lameness

What can cause mud fever?

  • Soil type – some soils can predispose horses to mud fever so outbreaks on yards can be common
  • Prolonged damp – either in the field or from deep, dirty, wet bedding.
  • Feathering – heavy feathering can predispose horses to infestation with Chorioptes mites (feather mites) which can increase the risk of mud fever.
  • Trauma to the skin can provide an entry point for the bacteria
  • White limbs have been suggested to be more susceptible to mud fever

How do you treat mud fever?

  1. Clip the affected area – remove the hair so the skin can dry out. Removing feathers also allows you to better access the skin to treat and inspect it.
  2. Wash with an antimicrobial and antibacterial shampoo or scrub, such as Malaseb or dilute hibiscrub then rinse and dry thoroughly. Continue once daily for 1 week.
  3. Gentle removal of softened scabs can help to decontaminate the area. Do not remove dry or well adhered scabs as this can leave an open wound in the skin and predispose to further infection.
  4. Apply an antibacterial cream such as Flamazine to the affected area twice daily. Our own antibiotic Mud Fever solution is very effective at treating even the worst of mud fever.

When should I call my vet?

  • If your horse becomes lame
  • The condition continues to get worse or does not show any sign of improvement
  • There is swelling of the area or leg
  • You have any other worries

 Please don’t hesitate to call us today if you have any concerns or questions regarding the health of your horse



Equine atypical myopathy (EAM) is a serious potentially life threatening condition caused by eating Sycamore seeds or possibly leaves. Incidences tend to occur in autumn and in the spring following large autumnal outbreaks. Horses that develop EAM are usually kept on sparse pastures with an accumulation of dead leaves or wood present. There is often no supplementary feeding with hay or hard feed. Outbreaks frequently occur following a period of wet, windy or cold weather coinciding with when large numbers of seeds are falling. The amount of toxin within the seed is variable although the levels are thought to increase during the autumn months. It isn’t known how many seeds need to be eaten for a horse to become sick. It is likely that some horses are more susceptible than others, young horses and foals seem to be particularly susceptible. The disease results in muscle damage, affecting the muscles which enable a horse to stand, breathing muscles and the heart muscle. Due to the muscle damage, urine of affected horses becomes a dark red colour due to excretion of pigment from the affected muscles.

What are the signs?

Early signs of the disease include lethargy, dullness or mild weakness. These signs usually progress quickly to stiffness, muscle tremors, extreme weakness and increased periods of lying down. In severe cases the horse may be found lying down and unable to stand. Owners may be concerned their horse has colic. Some horses may be found standing rooted to the spot, with a low head carriage, vocalising (whinnying) and head nodding. If you suspect your horse has atypical myopathy phone the practice as a matter of urgency.


The physical examination and grazing history will often give a strong index of suspicion for the disease. A urine sample can be obtained and visually confirms ‘dark red urine’, laboratory testing can confirm the presence of muscle protein in the urine. Diagnosis can be confirmed by checking the blood to test and measure the muscle enzymes. Kidney parameters may also be elevated. If one horse is suspected to be showing signs of EAM the remaining field companions should be removed from the pasture, examined and the blood tested for early signs of the disease.


Horses treated for EAM require intensive 24/7 nursing care including intravenous fluid therapy to restore circulation and protect the kidneys from the damaging effects of the muscle protein.  EAM cases are often very painful and therefore require painkillers and supplementary vitamins and minerals may also be beneficial. Cases may get worse before they get better so if transport of the horse is possible early referral to a hospital is usually advisable. Those horses that do recover usually make a full recovery and return to work with no-long term effects of the disease.


The Sycamore seeds and to come extent the leaves are the only known source of the toxin although other sources may be elsewhere. Fence off any Sycamore trees or areas where seeds have fallen. Cases of EAM that arise in the spring are thought to be associated with ingestion of the seedlings therefore where possible remove seeds from the pasture. Supplementary feeding with hay or haylage will discourage horses from eating the seeds. Turning horses out for shorter periods of time where possible.

Due to the variability of the toxin levels in the seeds and to a lesser extent the leaves, cases of EAM have been seen in horses that may have grazed the same pasture previously with no signs of the disease. The introduction of a new herd mate may result in the new herd mate becoming affected despite other horses having shown no signs of the disease. Therefore it is always worth following the prevention steps above to avoid cases of EAM.

Phoebe Parker BVetmed MRCVS

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