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Grey Horses & health?

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  • Grey Horses & health?

    If you found a nice middle aged grey horse would you worry about melanomas? If you were vet checking this horse would you do any extra tests to look for melanomas that could compromise health? The horse I'm looking at is about 12 years old and is actually the most dappled 12yr old horse I've ever seen although I'm not sure if that makes any difference to the possibility of melanomas. I'm not even sure when is the age when melanomas start if they are going to start. Would there be melanomas to check for at this age? I've been hesitant to buy a grey horse simply because of the melanomas that sometimes come with them but I want to give this horse serious consideration because he is really nice.

    I've read on this board before that grey horses born black to two grey parents have a higher chance of developing melanomas. I could find out from the breeders of this horse all that information but I'm less interested in probability than if this horse actually has them now.

  • #2
    I have 2 greys. The melanoma thing never came in the equation when I bought them.

    One is 11 y.o., the other is 3 y.o. and they never had any health issue.

    I saw a chestnut mare with many melanomas this week end. One was the size of a grapefruit on her left hind leg and many small ones on her face. So it can happen to non grey horses too.

    So if everything I am seeking for in the horse is there, it wouldn't stop me.


    • #3
      My grey mare is 25, has had melanomas since I got her @ 7, and they have yet to cause any health issues. She has them under her tail, around her udder, and has a couple tiny ones under her chin. She's in good weight, in generally good health so I don't worry much about them. Nor would I hesitate to buy another grey horse, based solely on that.
      Different Times Equestrian Ventures at Hidden Spring Ranch


      • #4
        I wouldn't worry. I bought a 12 years old grey mare with melanome on her vulva. She is 17 years old now and had never had health issue because of it. It stayed the same.

        I would buy a grey mare anytime and I actualy have two now.
        Breeder of Royal Dutch Sport Horse


        • #5
          My experience with melanomas is that they are highly heritable.

          I have had many grey ponies well up into their teens and twenties with absolutely no melanoma issues. However, there are some lines that get them at a fairly young age and they can be very serious. Fortunately, thus far, I have never had any problems with melanomas with any of my own.
          Family Partners Welsh Ponies - Home of Section B Welsh stallion *Wedderlie Mardi Gras LOM/AOE http://www.welshponies.com
          Click here to buy: A Guide To In Hand Showing of Your Welsh Pony


          • #6
            HUGELY timely question for me!

            I learned today of the passing of a truly great schoolmistress, at only 16, due to melanomas. She was riddled with them, and has been since I've known her (~10 years)

            Are there breeds more predisposed or NOT? I rarely hear of them in the Lusitanos--who are primarily grey. This mare was the first/only Luso I've personally known (I've only known 30 or so...) who has them.

            Of course this has me worried, as my new colt is going to grey... and I just possibly have a new mare--who is also grey.

            I quite honestly hadn't given it much thought until I heard of this great mare's passing today... and now... it is of course on the front burner.
            InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs

            Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)


            • Original Poster

              The stallion of this horse is in his twenties, and I can do more research on his lines. Pintopiaffe I was asking this question thinking along the lines of what you posted. It has happened before that a grey horse dies of colic and the examination afterwards shows melanomas in the gut but it was my understanding that instances of this happening are quite rare. And how would you even check for something like this in a vet check? I wouldn't give this as much thought if I was looking at a young grey horse but looking at a middle aged grey horse made me stop and think.


              • #8
                Marengo... I emailed my guy's breeder, who has been breeding Arabs forever. She has lots of greys, including homozygous.

                Her quick answer, and she couldn't remember the cite, was that the most recent thing she read was that greys don't get any more melanomas than other colours...

                Which sent me off in a tizzy of trying to find the cite.

                What I've come up with so far, is that greys may or may not have more of them, but they tend to be benign in greys, whereas they tend to be malignant in other coloured horses (and humans.)

                TEXAS VET NEWS
                By Dr. Bob Judd, DVM and the Texas Farm Bureau

                Melanoma in Horses

                If you have ever owned a grey horse, then you are probably familiar with melanomas. Melanomas are commonly malignant tumors in people and non-grey horses but the type of melanoma that commonly occurs in grey horses are considered to be benign. They are commonly seen in grey horses over 10 years of age and in many cases do not cause any problem. In general, I tell clients that these tumors on grey horses are rarely malignant and depending on the area, usually do not cause a problem. However, they can ulcerate and this can lead to an infection and pain for the horse. The tumors generally develop in fairly sensitive areas such as the groin, perineal area, lips and eyelids and can become malignant but this is rare.

                Drs. Pillsworth and Knottenbelt report that melanomas on the head can spread to lymph nodes that surround the jugular veins and carotid arteries in the neck, as well as spread to inside the horse’s guttural pouches. Because of the physical size of some of the tumors, clinical disease can occur depending on the location of the masses. As an example, if a tumor is located in the spinal cord area, neurological symptoms can occur. Also, tumors in the guttural pouch have been shown to cause a horse to have difficulty swallowing. As far as treatment, removal of the masses while they are small is usually recommended. The drug cimetidine has been shown to decrease the size of some of these tumors in certain cases, but the most successful treatment is removal with a laser or freezing them after a large portion of the tumor is removed surgically. If you have a grey horse with melanomas, consult your vet for treatment options.

                Date Published: 8/20/2007
                I found a couple other quick cites that tend to be in agreement with this, just with some quick searches. Will go more in depth when I have time.

                Meanwhile, my pinto had a recurring sarcoid in the girth area. It was benign, but came back after freezing. Used Exxtera and it's been happily gone for years now. He gets a 'suspicious' spot under his tail, just at the base, almost ever summer. It sounds like I should probably be more worried about HIM than the greys...
                InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs

                Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)


                • #9
                  Just to endorse the quote from Pintopiaffe above : my experience with a (now middle-aged) grey mare, born very dark dapple grey, of two grey parents, is that she does have a number of melanomas - around her vulva and under the tail, and a few very small ones under her coat on her quarters ..... but again, has had them for a number of years, and crossing every finger that I have (and more!!!) they have not developed nay further or caused any problems.


                  • #10
                    I have a 17 yr old grey TB from a grey stallion and a chesnut mare. He has small melanomas under his tail and 2 in his neck muscle. They don't bother him and I just moniter them.



                    • #11
                      I've always heard that it's not so much the melanomas themselves that are the issue as it is where the melanoma is located. When they get them under the tail, they are only a cause for concern if they interfere with pooping. But they *can* grow internally and possibly contribute to colic, or they can grow around the eyes and interfere with vision, etc.

                      They also tend to appear younger and in greater numbers in horses homozygous for grey.

                      Not sure that I would be worried about buying a 12-yo with no issues with them yet. But I would not personally breed for grey.


                      • #12

                        A Swedish study showed that GG (homozygous ) greys have a higher incidence of melanomas than GN greys. It is not that they have 2 grey parents. If those grey parents are not both GG then the foal can be GN.

                        In Lipizzans there are more GG greys because they were once bred for that color. I have only a couple GNs on my farm. I am trying to introduce GN and NN Lipizzans. I am agent for a black Lipizzan stallion in fact. I will breed him to my GN mares and hope to get some color.

                        Despite the grey color, Lipizzan do live a long time. So I would not worry too much.
                        Touchstone Acres Lipizzans, Standing N. Samira VI (Gray), N. XXIX-18(Black), more in 2014


                        • #13
                          Of all the horses I have owned in my 30+ years of horse breeding, the two that lived the longest were gray.
                          My TB stallion lived until he was 27, my Trakehner mare also until 27. Yes, they had melanomas but they were not a big problem.