Over the past five years, vet Stephen Ashdown has written many articles, spoken on equine matters and contributed widely to horse magazines.

Here he reproduces in the form of questions and answers about 100 topics, all of them common problems which afflict horses.

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Papilloma Infection
Q. Last year I took over the care of a grey native gelding. His hooves were over-long and he had a mass of 'cauliflower' growths on one of his hindlegs, starting from the back of the hoof into the heel and up into the fetlock ( see photo below).

It was badly infected but he was never lame on it. The pony is now 10 years old and before I had him he suffered severe mud fever and cracked heels.

My vet did a biopsy which showed papilloma virus. The pony was given a course of antibiotics which cleared up the infection. For treatment thereafter the vet said to keep him out as much as possible, wash the area twice a day with salt water and twice a week with Hibiscrub. I also started using Thuja cream and tablets twice a day. A few months later the growths were half their size but, as autumn drew on, the infection came back. The vet told me to stop using the Thuja cream as this could be keeping the warts soft. I was only to wash them as necessary but put formaldehyde solution on every night. A month later the warts were getting bigger again. What should I do next?

A. I would suggest that your horse acquired the papilloma infection because of the problem he had previously with mud fever and cracked heels. It is likely that he also weakened his body defences which made him more likely to get mud fever and also means that the virus finds it easier to grow and produce nasty growths that you see.

Of course, damaged tissue is likely to get infected and cause problems. What you need to do is find some means of increasing the body's ability to fight the virus and repair damaged tissue. In the conventional medicine field there are not many things that can do this work but there are a large number of plants that can help a great deal.

I use a particular selection of Ayurvedic herbs which could help a great deal, both by tackling the virus and helping the natural healing response.

Alternatively there are a large number of other commercial formulae that might also be useful.

As for topical ointment, I would suggest that you use Aloe Vera gel. Some mixtures such as formaldehyde solution might conceivably irritate the infected tissue and cause it to grow more vigorously.

Homoeopathic formulae could cetainly be very useful and I think the Thuja could have helped a lot. Try the Thuja again with an immune stimulating herbal mix. Herbal supplements and homoeopathy are very different but we know that one formula does improve the action of homoeopathic medicine so the two should go together.


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