These information sheets are provided for your interest. They should not replace veterinary advice from your veterinary surgeon.

Whilst every effort is taken to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information provided, your specific circumstances must be discussed before advice can be given.


Sarcoids are a very common disease of equine skin. Sarcoids can have many different appearances. Some horses never suffer from sarcoids, others just have the one and unfortunately some horses are riddled with them.

The cause of sarcoids has been linked to bovine papilloma virus. Some sarcoids grow very quickly whereas others remain the same size for years.

There are many different schools of thought over the treatment options depending on the type of sarcoid and its location. Most common sites are

·         Chest, groin, sheath and face – especially around the eyes and mouth

Most sarcoids become larger and more aggressive if left, so the advice is to treat as early as possible.


Occult (flat). These appear as a change in hair coat colour or direction of hair, there can be some hair loss present.

Nodular. These appear as a lump in your horse’s skin. The overlying hair and skin is normal.

Verrucose. Wart like, raised areas. The overlying skin appears thickened and hairless


Fibroblastic. Aggressive looking, ulcerated proud flesh. They are extensive and locally aggressive

Malevolent. Malignant, often found around wounds – trauma or surgical. Always ulcerated.

Mixed. Two or more of the above types in one place


Leave alone

·         May want to monitor small sarcoids that have just appeared. Contact your vet if the sarcoid grows or changes appearance


·         Acyclovir – anti viral cream

·         Liverpool cream – chemotherapy cream. Very effective but can only be applied by the veterinarian. Can cause a lot of skin damage, not good in groin or armpits                    where contact with healthy skin would occur. Must not be used around eyes.

·         5 fluorouracil cream – good for sarcoids around the eye


·         Application of a rubber lamb castration ring around the sarcoid. This leads to loss of blood supply and the sarcoid dropping off. Can only be done on small sarcoids              that do not have a stalk attaching into deeper tissues.

Laser or surgical removal

·         Best option if sarcoid is in an accessible area so that wide margins can be taken to allow complete removal. If not then there is a risk that the sarcoid will re grow.

Intra-lesional cisplatin

·         Chemotherapy drug that is injected into the sarcoid 3-4 times at 2 week intervals. This is something that is not offered at all veterinary centres.

Iridium wires

·         This is a specialised technique that is only performed at two centres in the UK. Radioactive metal wires are inserted into the sarcoids leading to death of the affected            tissues.


Most sarcoids can be successfully treated and the horse is able to return and continue to be worked post treatment. Something to be aware of is that most of the treatments lead to the affected area looking worse before it looks better.

If the entire sarcoid is treated or removed then prognosis for that particular sarcoid is good. If tissue is left behind or not treated then the sarcoid is likely to recur. One final thing is that when a horse has had one sarcoid then it is likely to develop another one later in life.