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.