Castration & Other Surgical Procedures
Castration is a routine procedure most commonly performed in young colts in order to prevent unwanted breeding and aid management. Castration can be achieved by two methods, the choice being dependent upon a number of factors including age and size of animal, temperament and previous history.
Open castration is the most commonly performed method of castration and can be performed either standing, under heavy sedation and local anaesthetic, or under a short general anaesthetic.
Standing castration is only possible in quiet, well handled horses, and is not safe to undertake in small ponies or horses that are difficult to handle. Guddling around between the hind limbs of a colt who is reluctant to give up his manhood can be quite a dangerous job!
Open castration under general anaesthesia is most commonly undertaken in ponies. Although all anaesthetics carry a small risk, this is minimal in healthy horses.
In most cases two incisions are made, one over each testicle, and these are left open post operatively. This allows free drainage of blood and serum that normally forms at the surgery site.
This involves a general anaesthetic and the procedure can only be performed under sterile conditions in our operating theatre. The skin incisions are closed (stitched) following surgery. This method is generally recommended in older horses whose testicles and cord are more mature/larger. The closed method reduces the risk of haemorrhage.
As the incisions are sutured closed they are unable to drain as well as open castrations and as a result these horses often develop significant swelling of the castration site.
Please remember to bring your horse’s bridle with you when bringing your horse to the clinic.
Gentle exercise should be encouraged to promote drainage and prevent swelling of the scrotum. Ideally, this should be achieved by turning the horse/pony out into a small dry paddock where he can move around quietly for at least a week. If your horse/pony is stabled then he should be walked out at least 3-4 times daily for 10-15 minutes to decrease swelling and improve drainage.
With open castrations, the wound will be left open to allow drainage. Dripping of blood from the wound is normal, and this may continue for several hours after surgery. The legs should be washed or hosed down as necessary but it is usually not necessary to clean the wounds themselves. If blood streams from the wound or there is bleeding for more than 24 hours please contact us. The scrotum may remain swollen for up to a week; again this is normal and the swelling should start to decrease after this time.
All horses are given a dose of antibiotics and pain relief for the procedure. Your vet may or may not consider it necessary to prescribe a longer course of antibiotics. Further painkillers (usually ‘bute’ powders) can be beneficial to help the horse or pony feel better after the operation, and move more freely; these may be prescribed by the vet who performs the surgery for a few days.
Please contact the practice if you have any concerns, in particular;
- If any tissue is seen hanging out of the scrotum
- If signs of colic are seen
- If the horse becomes inappetant or depressed
- If blood drips out faster than you can count the drops or if blood continues to drip for longer than 24 hours
- If any other discharge (such as pus) occurs at any stage
- If swelling fails to resolve within 1-2 weeks
If the horse has not already been vaccinated for tetanus, he will need to be given temporary cover at the time of the castration. Check with the vet before the operation is performed as to what is required.
It is helpful if you have your horse’s passport or breeding papers available at the time of castration, so that they can be modified to confirm that he has been gelded.
Other Surgical Procedures
We have surgical facilities and stabling at our Sevington clinic to perform a wide range of surgical procedures (excluding Colic surgery for which we usually refer cases). Surgery is either performed by one of our team of veterinary surgeons or one of our consultant surgeons.
By working with external surgeons we can offer a vast range of highly specialised surgical procedures within our clinic, avoiding the need for prolonged transport to referral centres and maintaining the essential chain of communication between owner and vet.
We are able to offer:
- Keyhole (arthroscopy) joint surgery
- Fracture fixation
- Surgical treatment for a wide range of orthopaedic procedures
- Dental surgeries including extractions
- Respiratory surgeries including tie-backs and hobdays. We offer laser hobday which does not require a general anaesthetic
- Soft tissue surgery including lump removal and foreign body removal, hernia repair
- Eye surgery to include management of ulcers, tumours & uveitis (moon blindness)
- Wound management including infected joints.