Gray horses are born dark and grow lighter over time. They also account for nearly all of the melanoma cases that occur in horses. Roughly seventy percent of grays have at least one visible melanoma by the age of ten. By fifteen, the rate is up to eighty percent.
Many years ago, I saw several aged gray horses die very unpleasantly after their melanomas suddenly went crazy, growing and multiplying wildly. I told myself I would never own a gray, so of course now I have two.
Beau is 14 years old and has the same five tiny tumors that haven't grown at all in the six years I've had him. Almost-10-year-old Judge was cancer-free until two years ago. His first melanoma on his tail grew from about the size of a 00 buckshot to over an inch in diameter since then. A second one appeared down inside his left ear back in April, and rapidly grew to about half an inch.
Based on the rate of cancer growth, my vet said Judge would need to go to a university teaching hospital for treatment. None of the currently available treatments are particularly successful though, none effecting a cure. All too often, they only "wake up" the cancer which then returns far more aggressively, leading to death.
While searching the web for any new progress with equine melanoma, I found references to research at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine using frankincense essential oil to treat this frustrating disease.
My holistic vet gave the idea of treating Judge's tumors with topical frankincense oil a thumbs-up. The oil is non-irritating to normal tissue, and the worst it would do is have no effect on the cancer while making him smell nice. She said if the straight oil proved to be well-tolerated I should add some DMSO to help it penetrate better.
In the clinical environment, researchers treat the tumors as many as five times a day. There was no way I could match that schedule, so I tried once a day for starters.
To my delight and amazement, the tumor inside Judge's ear began to respond immediately. The tumor had originally been very hard to the touch with a smooth surface. After I started applying the oil, its consistency became much softer. The surface is becoming crumbly and starting to flake away.
The much larger tumor on his tail hasn't shown any noticeable changes yet, but now that I've added the DMSO, I'm hopeful. If only one is going to improve, I'm glad it's the one inside his ear. The tail is a much easier surgical site if it eventually comes to that.
Frankincense has been used in medicine from the first milennium BCE. So-called "modern medicine" likes to denigrate anything outside itself as harmful at worst, quackery at best. If that were true, we never would have survived as a species to this day.