I’ve been wanting to post on this for a while, but I was hesitant, not knowing how it would turnout. Kona is in excellent health now, so I’m going to dive in!
This fall I noticed a lump on Kona’s side while I was tacking up. It looked like a small lump about the size of a golf ball. It was hard and did not seem to cause him pain. I brushed it off, thinking it was a possible hematoma from playing rough in the pasture. A week or so later, it had changed dramatically. What was once a simple lump was now a string of small, circular, hard lumps leading up to his sheath area. Now I was concerned. I started taking pictures to document growth and movement. Thankfully, he still exhibited no pain when I poked and prodded the lumps.
I started doing some research on my own. I had a really hard time finding much information without a name or any idea really of what this could be! Finally, I found an article that described a similar case treated at my Alma mater, Oklahoma State. I felt pretty confident these nodules were a systemic fungus called sporotrichosis. Nasty sucker from what I read in the article. I made an appointment with Oakridge Equine, about 45 minutes away, and tried to explain to the receptionist what we would be dealing with… Kind of difficult with such a rare case, but I wanted the vet to have a heads up it was unusual.
When I arrived at the clinic we went through all the usual questions and finally got down to business at hand. Several vets were asked to take a look since it’s such a rare occurrence. Apparently, sporotrichosis is a fungus that lives virtually everywhere, soil mainly, and occasionally enters the body through a wound. In the picture you can see a tiny black spot at the top, which is where I believe he contracted the fungus. It was probably just a nick he got along the fence line, or even a bite from his big brother. The fungus entered his body and started to invade his lymphatic system, which is why the nodules are situated in a line moving up to his sheath. This was what really concerned my vet, that the sheath and penis area have a massive, and important, lymphatic system all of their own, and we didn’t want the fungus to invade this space.
Treatment for sporotrichosis gets tricky. Generally, vets will biopsy the nodules to know with certainty that it is in fact sporotrichosis, and then treat with an oral prescription. However, biopsies are a). expensive and b). time consuming. I didn’t want to wait for a biopsy, because I felt pretty confident about the diagnosis. Unfortunately systemic fungal remedies are also extremely expensive. It was going to cost hundreds just for a month’s worth of medicine. Yikes.
This is why I like my vet. He said, “I’m a wait-and-see kinda guy.” And I said, “Perfect. I’m a wait-and-see kinda girl.” He said Kona was otherwise in excellent health, so he sent me home with strict instructions to watch it daily. If there were any changes in the nodule growth around the sheath area, if the nodules spread or grew in size, or if he started to show pain then I was to call him immediately. I took some more pictures as the days went on.
After about a week, the nodules started to flatten. They still moved up to his sheath, but they didn’t get larger necessarily. Still no pain and no swelling in his sheath.
About three to four weeks after our initial vet visit, the nodules were still getting flatter and seemed to be dissipating. Thankfully, they continued to get smaller until I couldn’t see them any longer! What a weird and scary thing to have happen. It more severe cases of sporotrichosis, the nodules move up the legs, like a string of very hard pearls. The nodules usually open up and drain, turning into open sores. I feel really blessed this didn’t happen. This is a great example of a healthy body’s immune system beating out a trespassing disease. Sometimes you have to medicate, but I’m so glad I took a chance and let him take care of it on his own.