Biopsy? My stomach went into knots because I knew that meant sedation. And needles. And a tool punching holes into his skin. All the things My Boy just loves. NOT! I knew from Paint Girl that sedation wasn't a big deal, but a little scary if you've never seen your horse in that state before.
When I got to the Painted Creek for my appointment nobody was home from work yet, so I fed the horses and goats then brought My Boy out of his pasture to eat his hay in the wheelbarrow. I figured he could have as much of his dinner as he could before the appointment, because until he I knew he couldn't eat anything until he recovered from the sedation.
I groomed him while he ate. The spring shed is really starting! As was evident by the hairs covering me from head to toe.
It was a chilly yet beautiful afternoon, the sun low in the sky. I sat and watched my boy contentedly munching his hay.
I drank this beer as I waited. I was surprisingly calm.
Then, My Boy flung the whole lot of hay out of the wheelbarrow and all over me!
I actually laughed. I know his motive was the leafy scraps of the hay at the bottom of the wheelbarrow, but part of me thinks he did it on purpose. Spotted pill!
Oops, sorry, did I do that?
The vet finally arrived and I took him up to see her. She gave him lots of treats. He was a little suspicious at first, but warmed up and then got a little too nosey for treats. She got a good look at the bump. Which had changed a little since the last photos I took.
As you can see, it had "flattened" slightly. And was lighter in color. Drier.
After getting her hands on it, the vet thinks it was an occult sarcoid (this is most likely what his tiny wart-like bump was last spring) that probably got scraped or irritated, which kind of jump starts these things, and is now a nodular sarcoid. She said it was not a melanoma, those are typically a tarry black color and this lacked pigment. She suggested we start treating it topically. If it didn't work in a couple of weeks, then we would do the biopsy.
So I bought a pricey little jar of a product called "Xxterra." It looks a little bit like brown tomato paste, or crushed berries.
What exactly is Xxterra? Here is information that I found online:
Xxterra is made from zinc salt, water and Bloodroot (Sanguineria canadensis) and supposedly the most effective treatment sarcoids. Sarcoids, which are the benign skin tumors of horses, are refractory to most forms of treatments. Xxterra effects sarcoids by altering the tumor antigens in-vivo. This stimulates the immune system to recognize them as foreign and mount a response quite similar to the host vs. graft rejection. The tumor bed becomes lined with sensitized WBC's and becomes inflamed causing it to slough off. It can become quite sore to the touch, however this sensitivity lasts only a few days.
Xxterra is effective in over 95% of the sarcoids treated. Equine warts, squamous cell carcinoma, proud flesh, melanoma and fibromas are other conditions it has been used on with various levels of success. Total failures have been observed in rare instances and have been attributed to a non-functional immune system.
Don't ask me what that technical mumbo-jumbo is. I just know that you apply it daily and it is supposed to cause the tumor to inflame, which is good. That means his body is jump-starting his immune system to attack it. The tumor then gets big, ugly, and considerably worse, then sloughs off. Bet you can't wait for me to document this process in pictures, hmm?
She also had me start him on 1/2 cup of Canola oil added to his grain, which is a good source of omega fatty acids. She said that she has seen this, combined with the Xxterra, to really work together in some horses and just get their body and skin working to fight the tumor.
Unfortunately, My Boy's sarcoid is in an area on his face that could interfere with the bridle. And, unfortunately, his bump, which could have been dormant for a long time, somehow got "activated." Quite often, sarcoids become a chronic problem. I do not know him to have any history with these in the past.
Interestingly, the vet said that this can make horses very cranky. Uh-oh. When the tumor begins to inflame, it can become uncomfortable. Usually, smart horses with personalities like My Boy's, began to associate you and that little jar with his inflammation and discomfort. I told her I was concerned about leaving the halter on and having it interfere with the tumor. She said if he was difficult to catch without the halter right now, then he certainly wasn't going to be any easier to catch if the Xxterra kicked in. She recommended leaving it on him until the treatment was complete (about two weeks, I believe.) If the sarcoid gets really inflamed or appears to be painful, she said to give him a little bit of bute.
The morning after his first treatment, I didn't notice any change. It was a windy morning and oh mercy, he was riled up! The air was bitterly cold, he was very edgy. I gave him grain and as I moved towards him he got leery and jumped away from me twice, but came back. I was finally able to apply another coat of the Xxterra while he ate his grain.
This is how cranky he looked as he ate his hay. You can see the winds blowing his tail one way and his mane the other. He was in spooky mode, about to bolt at any moment! Every horse pasture I drove by on the way home that day had a horse in it looked the same way. They were just staring into the wind, on high alert. Funny how animals are so sensitive to impending storms. Note the bare ground.
Morning Two. This is what awaited me when I arrived at the Painted Creek!
Yes, a couple of inches of wet snow. No wonder My Boy had been edgy. He knew that storm a-coming was bringing more of that annoying white stuff!
My Boy was content to eat his grain, oil, and carrots while I groomed him then applied the medication.
He is pretty determined that he doesn't miss a single dropped piece of grain!
Here is what the bump looks like with the Xxterra on. As you can see, no real change yet. If anything, I think it looks flatter than it did. I was hoping to see inflammation, to be honest. That means it is working.
It wouldn't be a My Boy post without the classic tongue picture, would it?
The Canola oil makes him lick his chops a lot. So expect more great tongue shots in the future!
Now, we are in a wait-see pattern. Waiting to see if the Xxterra works. I have read quite a bit of information and testimonials about this product on message boards, and it was mostly good news and results. So I am hopefully this will be successful. Keep your fingers crossed!