A prepurchase exam can provide valuable insight on a horse’s health status, equipping you to make an informed investment decision. And while veterinarians commonly assess copious qualities from soundness to suitability, if it’s a stunning gray you have you have in your sights, it’s also important to consider whether the horse has melanomas and what risk these might pose to his future health.

When in their early stages, melanomas are small and can seem insignificant, but many are extremely invasive and even life-threatening. Harry Werner, VMD, of Werner Equine in North Granby, Conn., past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) addressed the significance of identifying and describing melanomas during prepurchase exams at the 2013 AAEP Convention, held Dec. 7-11 in Nashville, Tenn.

Melanomas are common neoplasms (tumors) that develop in gray horses with age. Many are not particularly invasive, Werner said, while others can cause dysfunction or even death.

If a melanoma is detected during a prepurchase exam, “the practitioner must realistically inform the buyer without unfairly jeopardizing the sale by overstating the concern or understating in such a way as to incur unnecessary risk exposure for the examiner,” Werner said.

He described a case study of a 12-year-old grey Thoroughbred gelding to make his point. At the time of the prepurchase exam, the veterinarian identified a 1-cm melanoma on the horse’s sheath and a 4-cm swelling of the left temporal area near the horse’s ear. Radiographs of the head showed no significant findings. The report stated that the swelling below