Is Your Horse at Risk for Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) can be difficult to treat, so early detection and treatment are key to giving affected horses the best chance at positive outcomes.

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SCC most commonly occurs at mucocutaneous junctions, such as near the eyes. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Amber Labelle

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), a type of skin cancer that commonly occurs on white-skinned areas of horses, can be difficult to treat. That’s why Leslie Easterwood, MA, DVM, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, in College Station, said early detection and treatment are key.

She said SCC most commonly occurs at mucocutaneous junctions, such as the eyes, nose, sheath, vulva, and rectal sphincter. Although SCC has some genetic predispositions, sun exposure can also accelerate the disease.

Easterwood added that SCC also can develop if the horse has prolonged liver disease or if the horse has had a thermal (i.e., burn) injury. Long-term exposure to toxic plants can also increase the risk of liver dysfunction and, thus, lead to SCC on the affected white skin

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