Q:I have owned my two-and-a-half-year-old Thoroughbred X cob mare for three months now. I have noticed that she has got a lot of warts under her bottom lip. There are quite a few of them and a friend told me to treat them with Vitamin E. Is this correct or is there any other solution?
Jo Holmes replies: Warts are caused by a type of skin virus.They can be contagious but they vary in their extent from horse to horse.
Equine papilloma virus will not affect humans but can be spread by infected grooming brushes, clothing and tack coming into contact with open wounds. You should bear in mind that it can exist in the environment for up to three weeks.
Warts are usually found on the face, chest and front legs and can interfere with tack, creating sores. Warts are common in youngsters who have not yet developed an immunity to the virus, so your mare is typical of her age group.
The good news is that she should develop a natural immunity over three to four months and you will find the warts will then disappear without a trace.
Occasionally horses can suffer from persistent warts for up to two years, which then have to be removed surgically.
Generally there is no treatment which can eradicate them.
For your mare, Vitamin E cream will do no harm and should keep her skin healthy but, basically, time is the best healer.
Ensure any sores that develop in the wart area are kept clean with disinfectant and are protected by surrounding them with fly repellent.
There is some evidence to suggest zinc helps the body fight viral infections so a combination cream might be best but it is unlikely to speed up the immune system once infection is firmly established.
It would be wise to keep your mare away from other youngstersto prevent cross-infection.