Castration

Castration is a routine procedure most commonly performed in young colts in order to prevent unwanted breeding and aid management.

There are three main methods of castration, the decision as to which is most
appropriate should be discussed with your vet as the choice is dependent upon a number of factors including age and size of animal, temperament and previous history:
• Open castration which is usually performed standing with the incisions left open.
• Open castration which is performed under a short acting general anaesthetic in a field setting. (This is usually reserved for smaller ponies or unhandled colts who cannot be castrated standing.)
• Closed castration under general anaesthetic which is performed in an operating theatre.

Open Castration

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.

Closed Castration

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.

Tetanus prevention

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.

Paperwork

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.

Aftercare

Exercise:
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.

Woundcare:
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.

Medication:
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.

Complications

Castration (gelding) is one of the most common operations we perform and like any surgical procedure, complications may occur in spite of the procedure going smoothly.

Bleeding
This is the most immediate and common complication and can be life-threatening depending on the extent and duration of bleeding. Bleeding after surgery is often minimal with intermittent drops of blood which spontaneously stop within minutes. However, if the drops cannot be counted then prompt veterinary attention should be sought. The bleeding may come from the testicular artery (which may have been ligated during the castration procedure) or from one of the blood vessels in the scrotum which are not ligated during surgery. Depending
upon the level of haemorrhage, either the scrotum will be packed with sterile swabs or the bleeding blood vessel will require ligating (tying off).

Swelling
A degree of post operative swelling is normal and is not considered a complication however excessive swelling accompanied with stiffness
should arouse suspicion of infection. We normally recommend a course of anti-inflammatories (bute) which would help to control post operative swelling and pain. Modest exercise in the form of paddock turnout will help to minimise swelling post operatively. Excessive swelling or stiffness may indicate infection (see below).

Infection
Open castration is often termed a clean rather than sterile procedure as it is performed in field conditions where it is hard to reproduce the
sterility of an operating theatre. Antibiotics are commonly administered following castration to reduce the risk of infection. The placement of a
ligature (stitch) around the testicular artery during surgery has the advantage of reducing the likelihood of haemorrhage but this does increase the infection risk due to the presence of a foreign material within the body which can act as a focus for infection. Infection causes swelling and discharge from the surgical site and a stiff gait indicative of pain. The temperature may be raised and appetite may be reduced. For minor infections, antibiotics combined with manual opening of the incisions usually resolves the infection. More serious infections can need a further surgical procedure to remove infected tissues.

Hydrocoele
Occasionally a soft, fluid swelling may be noticed within the scrotum of a gelding which is termed a Hydrocoele. This is essentially an accumulation of fluid within the vaginal tunic (the membrane that covered the testicle) which is more common following open castration.
These do not normally cause any problems but can be corrected surgically if desired. Hydrocoeles may be detected at pre-purchase examinations when a blood test may be required to confirm that no testicular tissue remains.

Herniation/Eventration
Occasionally a small amount of fascia/fat may protrude from the incision particularly if there is post operative swelling. Unless the amount of tissue is very small, this will probably need trimming under sedation. The more serious form of herniation occurs if small intestine is able to pass through the inguinal ring (a small gap in the body wall through which the testicle descended). This normally occurs following a standing castration and is associated with an abnormally large inguinal ring. Treatment of this is an emergency and involves replacing the intestines within the abdomen within an operating theatre. Correction of this problem can be diffcult and may prove fatal but thankfully is rare.

Biosecurity

Biosecurity is a recent buzzword for a series of measures designed to protect a population/yard from disease.

The main disease threats that can be brought into a yard are:
1. Respiratory diseases eg Strangles, Influenza
2. Skin diseases eg Ringworm
3. Reproductive diseases eg EHV/Herpes abortion and CEM/EVA.
4. Intestinal diseases eg Salmonella
5. Exotic diseases (those not normally present in UK) are possible in imported horses.

The best way of controlling the risk of introducing any of these diseases is to have a biosecurity protocol drawn up by the yard manager and vet. This does not have to be as formal as it sounds and a lot of it is common sense but it helps to plan in advance to prevent missing any obvious steps.
When drawing up a policy, the first step is to work out what the risk factors are for your yard.

Things to be considered include what type of yard (livery or private), how many horses, any young/breeding stock, how many new arrivals, how many competitions do horses go to, is there a worming & vaccination policy, is there anywhere to isolate a potentially sick horse. The isolation facility is one that often causes difficulty when a new or sick horse is on the yard, but does not have to be any more complicated than a separated field shelter that is out of reach of other horses. Every yard is different and because of this it is possible to give only very general guidelines. However, if you would like to discuss the risks to your yard
then please contact the practice so that one of our vets can come out to advise you.

Once the risk factors have been established , we can then draw up preventative measures for the yard. General measures include the segregation of new horses to the yard for a three week period to guard against introducing disease into the yard, blood sampling new arrivals for strangles serology and taking swabs and blood samples for horses going to stud. Stable hygiene should also be ensured and the use of separate equipment for each horse for feed, water and grooming. Vaccinating against Influenza and Tetanus is advised and drawing up a worming plan. The ultimate aim is to protect our horses against disease for the benefit of all.

Pus In The Foot

Pus in the foot is a very common cause of sudden, often severe, single limb lameness in the horse. Beneath the insensitive sole there are laminae which are densely supplied with nerves. Abscess formation results in pressure between the sensitive laminae and the rigid dorsal hoof wall and hence pain. It can be compared to infection beneath the finger or toenail. Infection can be introduced; through a puncture in the sole of the foot, nail prick at shoeing, through a crack in the dorsal hoof wall or via the white line.

The affected horse is often extremely lame and may even refuse to weight bear on the affected limb. The foot is often hot and will have a bounding digital pulse. When hoof testers are carefully applied to the sole of the foot there will be a pain response in the region of the abscess. The vet or farrier will remove the horse’s shoe and pare the foot to look for the track of the abscess. If this is found the track can be followed to release the pus and allow it to drain, causing reduction in local pressure and hence pain. A poultice will be applied and changed twice daily and the horse treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and box rest. Tetanus vaccination status should be checked and tetanus antitoxin given if the horse is un-vaccinated or if vaccination status cannot be verified. Antibiotics are rarely given as they may mask an abscess, which will return once the antibiotics are withdrawn. If the pus cannot be located then a poultice will be applied, in order to ripen the abscess and the horse re-examined in 48 hours. If there is no improvement and the horse remains lame then radiographs may be taken to identify the pocket of gas and ensure that a pedal fracture is not present. Sometimes the abscess may track further along the sole or even break out at the coronary band. Once the abscess has finished draining the sole of the foot needs to be kept clean and dry to prevent reinfection.

Prevention of foot abscesses involves; good farriery and trimming, regular picking out of the feet, avoidance of waterlogging of the feet and good diet to maintain strong horn and white lines. Any solar penetrations should be cleaned and poulticed without delay and advice sort from your veterinary surgeon. Tetanus vaccination is important as potentially fatal infection can gain access through hoof injuries.

Preventative Healthcare

Tetanus Vaccination:

We believe that every horse should be vaccinated against tetanus as this fatal disease can be prevented at relatively low cost. The initial course of vaccination requires two doses 4-6 weeks apart followed by a booster after one year. Boosters are then given every two years.

Influenza Vaccination:

Equine Influenza (flu) is a serious respiratory disease that can cause widespread problems in unvaccinated horses eg. the Australian outbreak in 2007. Influenza can be effectively prevented by vaccination which we would recommend and is also required by many shows/event organisers/racing authorities. If your horse’s vaccinations do not comply with the regulations below, your horse may be refused entry:

Initial influenza vaccination
Second influenza vaccination 21-92 days after the first
Third influenza vaccination 150-215 days after the second
Annual boosters thereafter not exceeding 365days after previous vaccination.

Vaccinations are not permitted within 7 days of racing/competition.

We endeavour to send out reminders for third and annual booster vaccinations but it is your responsibility to ensure that your horse’s vaccinations comply with the appropriate regulations.

FEI vaccinations:

Horses competing under FEI rules are required to have two initial vaccinations 21-92 days apart followed by a third vaccination within 6 months and 21days following the second dose with at least annual (within 365 days) boosters given subsequently. When competing at an FEI competition, the last vaccination must have been given within 6 months +/- 21 days of the competition date. No vaccinations to be given within 21 days of the competition.

For further details please visit: www.inside.fei.org

EHV ( Equine Herpes) vaccinations:

Horses can be vaccinated against EHV in order to protect against respiratory disease and/or abortion. For the prevention of respiratory disease the schedule is:

First EHV vaccination
Second EHV vaccination 4-6 weeks later
Booster EHV vaccination every 6 months
Pregnant mares can be vaccinated at 5,7 & 9 months of pregnancy to protect against abortion. EHV vaccinations are compulsory on many stud farms before your mare can be admitted to foal down.

Microchipping & Passports

We support microchipping of horses to provide permanent identification as well as being a legal requirement for horses born since 1st Jan 2010. The microchip is implanted in the left side of the crest and horses are routinely checked for microchip at vettings, events, auctions & racing. We offer a combined package of microchip implantation and passporting for foals, please contact the office for details.

Equine Healthcare Plan

We have developed our Healthcare Plan to allow you to spread the cost of your horse’s preventative healthcare as well as save money. It provides regular health and dental checks, vaccinations and worm egg counts. Find out more

Worming Programme

We offer an annual worming programme- we will perform as many worm egg counts as we deem necessary, advise on the results and tailor an individual worming program for each horse. Find out more