Castration is the removal of the testicles to prevent breeding and control behaviour in male horses. Whilst this is a routine surgery all surgical procedures carry risk and we endeavour to keep our patients as safe as possible by offering the highest standards of patient care at Scarsdale.
Routine castration of horse less than 4 years of age and which have not been used for breeding is termed open castration. The procedure is usually carried out under general anaesthetic as it allows better access to the testicles and a cleaner procedure, either at home or in the practice. Standing castration (sedation and local anaesthetic) may be performed in certain circumstances or on request.
After the surgery the testicular sac and scrotal wounds are left open to drain to prevent the trapping of infection. There is a small risk of prolapse of abdominal contents (gut) through the inguinal canals which extend from the scrotal sac to the inside of the abdomen, making this procedure unsuitable for stallions. We offer a 15% discount for open castration performed at the surgery and paid for on collection. Castrations at the practice are carried out in the purpose built padded knock down box, safely indoors where weather conditions do not interfere with the procedure and there are full facilities for monitoring and assisting anaesthesia.
Following an open castration we recommend patients are turned out as much as possible to encourage wound drainage and prevent swelling. It is important that they are closely monitored initially for bleeding and prolapse and subsequently infection.
In horses 4 years old and over or those who have been used for breeding and all donkeys the inguinal canals are larger and the risk of prolapse of abdominal contents is too high, castration is performed using a closed procedure. Where younger colts have very large testicles, the closed procedure is also advised. The canals and scrotal wounds are sutured closed preventing drainage which means the procedure must be performed under sterile surgical conditions in our surgical suite at the practice. The procedure is longer than an open castration and as such we have two vets involved in the procedure, one operating and one concentrating on the anaesthetic.
Following a closed castration there is less risk of post-operative bleeding, infection and swelling. Horses are kept on stable rest and hand walking for 2 weeks to allow full healing.
In some horses the testicle on one or both sides fails to drop into the scrotum and is retained at some point between the kidney (where they develop in the embryo) and the inguinal canal where they exit the abdomen into the scrotum, this is known as cryptorchidism. Internal testicles are highly likely to develop into fast growing tumours called teratomas and therefore should be removed. Cryptorchidism is also a heritable trait and the sons of these animals are also likely to be affected, so they should not be used for breeding.
Removal of a testicle in the inguinal canal may be possible via an incision in the scrotum, but for abdominal testicles an opening is created into the abdomen and the testicle located and removed. This is a much more involved and complex surgery, as the abdomen is entered and requires full surgical sterility; it can be a prolonged procedure as locating the testicle can be difficult. After removal the abdominal wound is closed in 3 layers and the external testicle removed using the closed technique. A more prolonged period of box rest is required to reduce the risk of breakdown in the abdominal wound and hernia formation.
If you want to discuss options for castrating your colt or are concerned about cryptorchidism please contact the practice.