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Tell me about bone cancer in horses

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  • Tell me about bone cancer in horses

    I know it's rare, I know it's deadly.

    I'm devastated that all signs are pointing to this in one of my most beloved, and talented homebred dressage horses. I'll know more tomorrow.

    Need to get my arms around this and need to know more.

    www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
    "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
    Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube

  • #2
    You're right, osteosarcoma is so rare in horses they really don't even teach anything about it to us in vet school. And it's 100% malignant.
    What signs is your horse showing? Were radiographs taken already? I think a biopsy is indicated.

    I found one article in the vet pathology journal where they had 8 documented cases of osteosarcoma in horses. This is the abstract (I have full text but I think you need a university subscription to get it). This is from 2007.

    Equine Osteosarcoma: A Series of 8 Cases
    J. M. Bush, R. L. Fredrickson and E. J. Ehrhart
    Colorado State University, Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology, Fort Collins, CO (JMB, EJE); and University of Illinois, Department of Pathobiology, Urbana-Champaign, IL (RLF)

    In horses, osteosarcoma is a rare tumor, with the majority of reported cases occurring in the head, and, more specifically, in the mandible of young horses. The following report documents 8 cases of equine osteosarcoma, the majority occurring in male horses aged 7 years or older with a lack of metastasis identified in any horse. Six arose in the maxilla or mandible and one in the proximal tibia. The predominant subtype was fibroblastic osteosarcoma with fewer osteoblastic type tumors. All had osteoid and most had a chondromucinous matrix. Surgical excision was attempted in the majority of cases. An inability to completely excise the tumor and progressive disease typically resulted in euthanasia. To the authors' knowledge, this case series also documents the first report of an equine extraosseous osteosarcoma within the subcutaneous tissue caudal to the shoulder. Surgical excision appears successful with no recurrence of disease 14 months later. Further investigations of equine osteosarcoma and various chemotherapeutic agents are warranted to present additional treatment options.

    As with dogs, the biggest factor affecting prognosis is if the tumor can be fully removed surgically. Unfortunately, as it usually happens in the head in horses, this is not possible. The tumor continues to grow and affect the horse's ability to eat and breathe, making it very difficult for owners to allow their horses to live, so most are euthanized.
    Dogs usually have limbs amputated and even then have only up to 2 years survival (which actually is quite good, but surgery is only to relieve pain, not cure the disease). Osteosarcoma is not very responsive to radiation therapy.
    There are a few more articles floating around online about osteosarcoma in the hock and tibia, but I'm having trouble accessing them.

    I hope this was somewhat helpful...and I'm very sorry if this is truly what your beloved horse has.


    • Original Poster

      A bone "tumor" is suspected at the top of the LH cannon bone. Horse holding leg in the air intermittently. No stifle issue, no hoof issue. Just holds her leg in the air intermittently,though she's doing it more often and raising the leg higher. Eats well, walks sound. Stall confined at once until the diagnosis could be made.

      We initially suspected a greenstick fracture, but have not been able to fully confirm with radiographs over the last 3 weeks. That should be apparent by now with bony changes. But now we see another problem on the films a bit higher up (not fully radiographed the first time done). Repeat of films higher appear to show an anomaly.....then today we find a melanoma on the jaw that wasn't there 3 weeks ago. Has lost about 100 lbs. in 3 days. She is an air fern. Being stalled she should be gaining, not losing.

      This is worsing fast, despite the stall confinement. Lots of bloodwork today and more films. Results to go to Nat White at Morven Park for his assessment.

      I can't quite go into detail objectively and succinctly as I normally to when I post for the "greater" educational good (as I usually do...the science head that I am) right now.

      Because the thought this rarity hitting this particular horse (I bred and delivered her, now age 16... who is real superstar under saddle) at this age, with this talent, and at this point in my life to be my teacher now that I can get back in the saddle (being selfish here) is simply devastating at the moment.
      www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
      "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
      Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube


      • #4
        Hmm, I wonder if you're dealing with 2 different diseases at once. Osteosarcoma does not produce skin lesions. Melanoma is not a cancer that metastasizes to bones. In fact, I don't think it's ever been documented that melanoma has bony metastasis.
        There has been only one case ever documented where it spread to the bone marrow.

        I wouldn't be so quick to link the two things... the melanoma can be surgically taken out, and if you horse has one, chances are he's got more, but that's totally separate right now from the leg thing. Take a deep breath, and try to work through one thing at a time... I know it's really hard with everything happening at once, but each thing can be dealt with separately.


        • Original Poster

          Pancakes...yes, we know the two may not be linked. But there are "zebras" out there when it comes to cliinical symptoms of a disease process. I've had my share. Just thought it was worth noting.
          www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
          "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
          Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube


          • #6
            Yes, you're right that there may be something greater at work here... I'm just trying to put things into perspective to give perhaps better outlook


            • Original Poster

              Not being negative (only realistic) from what I glean, this not good. I'm not a giver-upper. Most people who know me, also know the kind of time, money, sweat and tears I devote to my horses. I've been at this for 22 years and almost all of my horses are homebreds, so I've been lucky enough to see alot,medically, over their lifetime.

              Just want give my girl as much comfort and care as I can with information from others who may have had a horse with this affliction...if that is indeed what she has.
              www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
              "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
              Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube


              • #8
                I hope the vets are wrong, it brings tears to my eyes and bad memories.
                A friend's TB stallion had Melanomas for a few years then shattered his front cannon bone because of cancer in it. I had a Paint stallion that had cancer in his upper jaw, his teeth started loosening up then fell out. We had him put down as soon as we found out for sure. It was hard to do, he looked so healthy and did not seem to be in any pain. Major jingles to you and your girl.


                • #9
                  Any results yet? I've been thinking of you and praying for a treatable outcome.


                  • Original Poster

                    Scan indicates upper femur fracture, with possible muscle pulling away from bone as well.

                    Digital xrays today to see the extent of the fracture -- IF they can get them. Typically they get films of the upper femur them under a general, but that is too risky since she could have a catastrophic break coming out from under. Hopefully, she'll cooperated and they can glean something that will indicate what the prognosis will be.

                    BTW, what was suspect as possible bone cancer in a film here at the farm was her chestnut (we redid the films and put two tacks at the top and bottom of the chestnut to confirm that's what we were seeing). We'll deal with her melanoma once I know more -- separate issue.

                    Thanks for asking.
                    www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
                    "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
                    Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube


                    • #11
                      Sorry about your girl, sid. How did it happen?

                      Jingles for a full recovery.
                      A Merrick N Dream Farm
                      Proud Member of "Someone Special to me serves in the Military" Clique


                      • Original Poster

                        No way to know. No evidence of any external trauma, like a kick or getting cast. I can only presume she took a freak fall out in the field (I'm a little hilly) when the ground was wet.
                        www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
                        "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
                        Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube


                        • #13
                          That is very good info about the chestnuts causing the anomalous area on the earlier xray! Thinking positive that everything is treatable....
                          RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by sid View Post
                            Not being negative (only realistic) from what I glean, this not good. I'm not a giver-upper. Most people who know me, also know the kind of time, money, sweat and tears I devote to my horses. I've been at this for 22 years and almost all of my horses are homebreds, so I've been lucky enough to see alot,medically, over their lifetime.

                            Just want give my girl as much comfort and care as I can with information from others who may have had a horse with this affliction...if that is indeed what she has.
                            sid i lost 4 to cancer of various forms, vets cant commit themselves to how long ones got
                            and they cant say how much pain they in either
                            weight loss-- star gazing, intermittence spasmatic colic, headshaking,
                            listless, no engery nero logial as in cant co ordinate legs lies down a lot
                            pecks at food rather eat food pecks at grass rather than grazz
                            touchy as in sensitive mood swings as in facial expressions of pain
                            whinnies as in dont know for what reason or neighs softly as in help me type thing
                            horses can get mouth cancer if shes lifting her leg higher then its more than likely attacking her rear end and pelvis back area she could be lifting her leg to releive pain
                            also this would be her head end -- horses are funny sods
                            point of tail is poll end if the horse is in pain
                            i would be looking more at her head than her rear end
                            for exsample-- a horse that drags its toes on the front end is more likely to have hock issues as the horse cant get his hocks underneath him so the toes drag
                            now bone spavins do that but they also creath an illusion of a bad back as well as toe dragging
                            yet if a horse is senesitive is his bum end - its more likely to be the poll end
                            as butt to poll and visa versa as for the yaw thing this would make perfect sense that something would show up in the head region
                            having lost a horse from abrian tumour which was my mare sons
                            i learnt a lot about cancer over the years with horses and how its can effect them and attack them i find it also interesting to i think
                            lighter coloured horses are like ginger people they have one lest layer of skin so they the uv rays attacks them mreoso same as a ginger perosn dont brown often they go red
                            so perhaps thats why they are subject to more meloma than a darker horses i dont know just guessing well thats my theory

                            anything which ends in sarcincoma is maglinant which when one has cancer can attack and run through the body at rapid speeds attacking alll the vital organs unless you have pot of dosh thats endless you cant examine a whole horse and its nto going to go away
                            i have learn from my1st one that when horses play up look deeper as to why rather than think its tack or normal things like that if you elimate those then your left with medical problems
                            you can trail and error as much foodstuffs as you like it wont work, and in my personal expreince i would say 4-6weeks maxs
                            once they have gone from a big fat thing to nothing its attacking the insides
                            now you can make the horse as comfortable as you like but you have to ask yourself are you being fair are you doing it for you or for the horse and is the quality of life there
                            if its not then pts -----