For several years now, Zelador has been affect by melanomas under his tail. Recently, we attempted a new treatment, a vaccine in trial stages.
When Zelador was three years old we noticed one melanoma to the left of his anus under his tail. My vet put him on Cimetidine, which usually slows or stops the growths while the horse is on it. Zelador received the drug (a container lasted a few months) about once a year. After a year or two the vet and I tried tying off the 1cm growth with a string at the base to reduce the blood supply to it. There were several roots. Tying off works well with a single root. However, over a period of several years with my vet retying the knot at the base of the growth whenever she visited the farm, the growth finally disappeared. THEN about 15 months ago one more largish one (about 1.5cm in diameter) and dozens of tiny ones appeared on the base of the tail and near the anus. Very tiny ones.
My vet checked inside Zelador’s sheath and she could feel a growth there.
At this time, my vet told me about a vaccine that was in the trial stages. The vaccine had been used on dogs for a little while and was now being tried on horses. I told her I was very interested in this vaccine.
During a routine visit with the vet we decided to get the vaccine for Zelador. Little did we know the hoops my vet was about to have to jump through to get the vaccine. Turns out the rules had changed in the past year. No longer could the vet administer the vaccine on the farm. Nowadays the vaccine has to be administered at an equine hospital and by an oncologist. There isn’t one in Canada. This was a setback, but my vet kept hopping through hoops and got approval for a board certified surgeon to give the vaccine to Zelador.
First week of July, 2016:
Dr. Trout at the Ontario Veterinary College is a board certified surgeon and is doing the procedure on Zelador. Dr. Trout has been in contact with the people in Tennessee (I believe they developed the vaccine) for quite some time (perhaps over a year). The vaccine arrived with the air-injector, which is used to propel the liquid into the horse. The injection site is the chest. Zelador’s first appointment with Dr. Trout was Monday at 5:00 July 11, 2016. The day before our first appointment Dr. Trout practised administering the vaccine on two of the OVC horses. He told Bill that the instructions were a bit challenging, but he and his crew figured them out. The procedure is simple. A 5cm square is shaved on the chest of the horse. The injector is wound up and during that process the liquid shoots out of it, through the horse’s skin and into the appropriate area. The chest is the chosen site because the skin is thin and (here I’m a bit vague on particulars) this is a site with the correct amount of fat and muscle to absorb the vaccine. The reaction of the two horses he practised on: one of them did nothing, the other one twitched a muscle.
Zelador will receive one injection every two weeks for a total of four injections. After that he’ll most likely receive one every six months. Dr. Trout did mention that if something went wrong with the vaccine or the injector at OVC the people in Tennessee would supply another injector and more vaccine free. If something went wrong at a farm, they would not do this.
The cost is $400 per injection. Trailering Zelador to OVC and back is about the same amount.
Our trailer man, Mike Charters, died a few years ago. His sons continued the business for a few years, but are not trucking this year. I turned to our riding coach, Alex Reinfels, for a recommendation and he introduced me to a wonderful lady who lives in Acton. We shipped Zelador to her farm Sunday evening. Monday afternoon we went to the farm near Acton, helped load Zelador, traveled the 20 minutes to OVC, received the injection then brought Zelador home.
Special note: I don’t know if you’ve seen melanomas under the tail. I saw them on a 20+ year old grey mare. They were yucky! Bubbles upon bubbles of round growths, really gross and obviously causing problems when the mare wanted to pass manure.
Zelador is 12 years old and the largest bump is about 2cm. The little ones are very small (many less than .5cm). I decided to do something NOW before things got BIG.
Dr. Trout told me the results of this vaccine on horses. Most of the melanomas under the size of 1.5cm to 2cm (ish) disappear. Many do not grow back and those that do grow very slowly.
I met Dr. Trout in 1997. My Thoroughbred, Sherlock, needed surgery at the fetlock. Dr. Trout “dropped” him (did surgery) three times in five days. His goal was to clean the area so that no arthritis would develop. In 1998 Sherlock and I went eventing at the entry level with him placing every time I didn’t go off course in the show jumping phase. By 2000 Sherlock could perform all of the Grand Prix dressage movements. Sherlock lived till 2009 (age 28) and the leg Dr. Trout worked on was his BEST one!!!!!
The BIG day. July 11, 2016:
Our shipper, Bill and I accompanied Zelador into the holding stall at Guelph. A technician came in and shaved a rectangle on Zelador’s chest. Next stop was the weigh scale. I THOUGHT Zelador was 1,230ish pounds. Wrong!!! He weighed in at 1,308.
Moving right along…into the examining room. Dr. Trout checked out Zelador’s melanomas and administered the vaccine. Zelador’s reaction was a stomp on his right hind foot. (Seems logical, considering that the injection was on the left side of his chest…diagonal pairs…).
Back at the holding stall he regaled the vet crew with a BIG SMILE.