Grey Horse Melanomas


The Introduction


I first set eyes on a beautiful grey 9-year-old Arabian mare named Mashallah Khadija ("Katie") in February 2004. She had the presence of a stallion and huge, liquid eyes that could melt your heart. I had decided I wanted her just based on photos and video tape, and my sister, Karen, and I had driven the 150 miles from Georgia to South Carolina to pick her up.

Before loading her into the trailer, we noticed a very hard egg-size lump in her chest, which was connected by muscle tissue. When I questioned her owner about it, she said she had never noticed it before. We exchanged papers and checks, and I drove off with Katie with the understanding that finalization of the transaction was contingent upon a pre-purchase exam.

During Katie's exam, my veterinarian asked how long she had the lump on her chest but, since the previous owner never admitted to being aware of it, I couldn't answer his question. He said it was probably just scar tissue, measured it and we agreed to wait two weeks and measure it again to see if there had been any growth. Two weeks passed without change, and Katie officially became my horse.

Six months later, at a subsequent exam, that same veterinarian declared that this was most likely a melanoma. He made no acknowledgement of having made a misdiagnosis earlier, and I didn't question him.

From that point on, I stressed over every bump and lump on Katie's body. I found a small, pea-sized lump on her teats, and one under her tail. My vet assured me that, unless these lumps begin to grow, I have nothing to worry about. He measured the lump on her chest every six months. There was no growth.

I began to read everything I could get my hands on regarding horse melanomas. Unfortunately, detailed information is not readily available, and I was left with more questions than I had answers. In my reading, I came across the name of a drug, Cimetidine, normally prescribed for ulcers, which had produced some respectable results in shrinking melanomas. Because this is a prescription drug, I asked my vet to prescribe it. He dissuaded me by indicating that there was no real measurable results for this product, and the cost probably couldn't be justified.

Further research turned up another product, a natural powder of grape seed extract, whose anti-oxidant properties were touted to have similar results to those produced by Cimetidine. I began including this in Katie's diet and continued to do so for 6 months. After the first three months I noticed an external melanoma on her chest had shrunk about 50%, and the large lump which caused my initial distress, appeared to shrink by about 10% and 'soften'. The next few months showed no progress, so I discontinued use of grape seed extract and replaced it with another antioxidant that was less expensive.


The Discovery

On Thursday, August 3rd, a friend brought Katie into her stall and pointed out a softball-sized growth under her tail that seemed to have appeared overnight.  It was very painful to her, and seemed infected. 

I placed an emergency call to my vet, as well as another new vet in the area, to whom I had been thinking of moving my business. As luck would have it, my normal vet never returned my emergency call. However, the new vet, a dynamic young lady named Jennifer, returned my call immediately and, based upon the description given her, told me she would save me an emergency visit charge and see my horse first thing the following morning.

The following morning the melanoma had ruptured, leaving a black, inky substance (melanin) splashed all over the skin on her tail, buttocks and legs. Katie appeared to be feeling a bit relieved.  My vet cleaned her up, squeezed more melanin out of the lesion and took photos of the original site to show to a fellow surgeon for advice. The melanoma appears to be approximately 2" long and located subcutaneously on her anus.

Because current theories indicate that these melanomas tend to spread when excised, most vets will not remove a melanoma surgically unless it is impeding a bodily function. Jennifer prescribed 1600mg of Cimetidine 2x/daily along with a 5-day course of 6400mg 2x/day Sulfamethoxazole / Trimethoprim antibiotics and 1cc bute 2x/day for 3 days.


 

I had recently run across a product called Bio-Sponge which has been known to save lives of horses diagnosed with clostridium perfringens, a form of 'food poisoning', which can kill horses with 24 hours. Since the product absorbs and rids the body of toxins and free-radicals, I figured it couldn't hurt Katie to help purge her system of the toxins released when the melanoma ruptured.

I have just ordered an herbal supplement known as "Nublada's Cure", from Earth Angel Products. I intend to add this, too, to Katie's daily rations. No information exists regarding any side effects or loss of effectiveness produced by mixing these supplements, so I am taking a stab in the dark.

I have written to all the Arabian breeders I know, as well as both horse owners and veterinarians that have published information on this topic, to receive advice since my thought process at this point is to be as aggressive as possible in treating this melanoma. I am, at this writing, awaiting replies.


The Journey Begins


Sunday and Monday Katie's appetite had increased. She has never been a voracious eater, but while she was not feeling well, her appetite had tapered off. I have been feeding Katie a special mash blend of rice bran, alfalfa pellets, a scoop of Bio Sponge, Cimetidine and antibiotics twice a day for 4 days now. I feed the mash before her regular feed, hoping she'd be hungry enough to finish it. It worked well until today. I hired a girl at the barn to feed her this morning, but she hadn't looked to see if she finished her feed. When I went to feed her again tonight, her dish was still full from the morning's mash.


Treatment Continues


Katie has now been taking daily doses of Cimetidine, which my vet supplies for $35 a bottle (2-3 week dosage), for a month and Nublada's Cure, an herbal treatment believed to shrink melanomas, for 20 days. So far, I've noticed only the slightest change in existing melanomas, but they do seem to be stabilized. Her energy level appears to be returning to normal, and she appears to feel quite well. The melanoma on her anus continues to drain periodically, and I make sure to keep it clean and free from hardened debris that may irritate her. Other than that, things are normal.


Shrinkage


Because I've been using two treatments simultaneously, I can't be sure which has been most effective in shrinking the melanomas. The melanoma under Katie's tail has shrunk by 50% at this point, the anal melanoma is visually imperceptible, and the melanoma on her teats remains unchanged. From what I've read and gleaned from conversations with veterinarians, melanomas are rarely fatal in a horse. I will continue to administer the Cimetidine for another three months, then discuss its continuation with my veterinarian.


Resuming Nublada’s Cure


I had discontinued the Nublada/Cimetidine treatment for Katie in November 2006, since my veterinarian agreed it would be okay if the shrinkage stabilized.  She recommended I start treatment again should any new growth appear.

 

Over the last few months I had noticed a change in Katie's attitude and, since she had recently been moved from a boarding stable to our farm, I assumed it had been due to the transition.  I also began to notice a change in her gait; what appeared to be a weakness in her rear-end and back legs.  I had two veterinarians examine her, and they determined there was nothing physically wrong with her.  I didn't take that opinion as final, and my own examination revealed that a melanoma on her teats, previously the size of a pea, had grown to two inches in length.  Palpation of the area around the melanoma revealed an internal mass, as well.

I began the Nublada/Cimetidine treatment once again. 

More Shrinkage


Nearly two months into treatment, the 2" mammary tumor has shrunk to 1" and the internal mass has shrunken considerably .  Katie seems a lot more active now.  I believe she may have had some discomfort in that area that impeded her motion.


Some Reassurance



Today I discovered blood dripping onto her back legs from the melanoma on her teats.  The 'cap' of the melanoma looked as if it had been ripped off, leaving a surface the diameter of a silver dollar open and raw.   I cleaned the area with Betadyne and left it to heal for a day, then cleaned it again and sprayed with Furasol to help prevent infection.  My vet will be examining her next Friday.

I am still treating Katie with Nublada/Cimetidine (20 days on/ 5 days off), but really haven't noticed any further shrinkage.  However, the size of the existing melanomas has stabilized, and their are no new growths.

The veterinarian assured me that melanomas are rarely fatal in themselves; only if their growth inhibits a vital organ or bodily function.  So, I continue the Nublada/Cimetidine ritual just to be sure. 

Liver Detox


The melanoma on Katie's teats is now shrunken to the size of a silver dollar around, and 1/2" long. Recently, Katie has seemed to have less energy, so I have administered a kidney and liver detox for a month.  During this time she shed a great deal of hair, but came through a thirty day treatment feeling and looking much better.   Because Cimetidine warns of possible kidney damage in humans, I am continuing dual product (Nublada/Cimetidine) treatment through the end of this month at which time I will discontinue the Cimetidine. 


Taking a Sabbatical


Because her melanomas seem to have stabilized, I have decided to discontinue Nublada's Cure just to give Katie's body a rest from any ingredients that could possibly have a negative effect on her body.