Liverpool vets attempt rescue horse surgery

Image caption,
Duke was among the dozens of animals found in poor conditions on the farm

Vets at the University of Liverpool are to attempt to cure a rescue horse with a debilitating skin condition.

Duke was one of more than 100 animals found emaciated, dehydrated, starved or seriously ill at Spindle Farm in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, in 2008.

The five-year-old has since been recovering at a Horse Trust home, but recently developed eyelid tumours.

He will undergo radiation treatment at the university's Equine Hospital - the only UK centre to offer the procedure.

The RSPCA rehabilitated 36 horses from the farm and they are being looked after at various animal centres across England and Wales.

Duke is suffering from tumours called sarcoids, similar to skin cancers, which are a common problem in horses causing extreme irritation and painful swellings.

'Gamma radiation'

Professor Derek Knottenbelt, from the Equine Hospital, said: "Removing tumours surgically from the eyelids would be almost impossible because the scar tissue would leave the horse unable to blink.

"Instead we kill the diseased cells from within using iridium radiation treatment, where gamma radiation is delivered through wires inserted into the tumour.

"Although sarcoids don't spread to internal organs like many other cancerous tumours, they can be severely debilitating and so it is important that they are treated quickly to ensure long-lasting recovery

"The condition is very unpredictable, but we hope that Duke will make a good recovery."

Duke is being treated by the university at no cost and will stay in Liverpool for two weeks to recover from the procedure, which will be carried out on Tuesday.

Horse trader James Gray, 46, of Amersham, was sentenced to a 26-week jail term in 2009 when he was found guilty of animal welfare offences alongside his wife and three children.

All of them were banned from keeping horses, ponies and donkeys following the neglect.

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