Cysts (Epidermoid) in Horses Leave a comment

Cysts, in general, do not normally affect a great deal of horses. There are many different types of cysts, depending on their origin and where they are located on the horse’s body. Some cysts can be opened and drained, but for a chance at complete recovery, cysts require surgery to remove. Other cysts, due to their location, are not good candidates for surgical removal and the owner may elect to leave them alone as long as they are not causing the horse pain.

Symptoms and Types

  • Swelling at the surface of the skin (usually small and hard)
  • Swelling at the bottom of the ear (dentigerous cysts)
  • Swelling in the false nostril (atheromas)
  • Lesions/cysts filled with keratinaceous (protein material found in hair, outer layer of epidermis) debris (keratomas)


  • Congenital defects
  • Abnormalities in the upper layers of the skin


Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough examination of your horse’s skin. In addition to examining the skin, he or she will be able to discern if the lesions are cysts by palpating the area. Depending on the location of the cyst, more extensive diagnostics may be warranted to make a diagnosis.


If the cyst is on the surface of the skin and does not extend deeply into the tissues, it can be removed surgically. Draining the cyst may reduce its size and perhaps reduce pain as pressure within the cyst is released, however, draining the cyst will not cure it. This is because all cysts are contained in a shell and this shell stimulates the production of the contents of the cyst. Unless the entire shell of the cyst is removed, it will not go away. Additionally, if the cyst is not drained in a clean manner, this action may lead to infection of the cyst.

Living and Management

After the cyst has been surgically removed by your veterinarian, your horse should be allowed some time to rest. If your veterinarian prescribes any medication, be sure to administer it in exactly the way your veterinarian has advised in order to promote full healing and prevent infection.


There is no prevention against the development of cysts in horses as they are either present at birth (congenital) or arise from a biological process within the body.


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