Colt castration is generally performed to make male horses easier to handle as they get older, especially on yards where mares are also present. Colt castration is usually performed when the colt is 6 months – 2 years old, depending on its appearance, growth and temperament.
Colt castrations can be performed at any time of the year although it is sensible to avoid June-September due to fly activity during these months.
Our equine vets routinely perform geldings under standing sedation and local anaesthetic. This has the advantages of:
- None of the risks associated with general anaesthesia
- Can be done at your own yard – usually in a stable – so no travelling involved
- Reduced costs compared with a gelding done under general anaesthesia
Standing sedation castrations are not suitable for situations where only one testicle is present or where there are complications such as the presence of an inguinal hernia.
To carry out a standing castration we require a colt with two fully descended testicles, a stable with clean bedding (not recently shaken) or matting, two clean buckets and a supply of warm water. A helper is sometimes useful. It makes our job much easier if the colt has been handled and has a head collar on.
Following an examination of the heart and lungs to ensure that the colt is fit to be sedated and a visual examination of the scrotum, the sedative combination is given via an injection into the jugular vein. Antibiotics and pain relief are also given prior to the procedure to make them more effective in reducing complications. It takes about five minutes for the colt to become profoundly sedated. Once this has happened, the scrotum can be palpated to ensure that two testicles are present and that there are no complexities such as an inguinal hernia. The tail is then bandaged to keep it out of the way during the procedure.
The colt’s groin is cleaned with surgical scrub and local anaesthetic is injected into each testicle. The operation site is rescrubbed and the surgeon scrubs up and prepares the instruments. The gelding procedure itself takes about 15 minutes. No sutures are placed in the incision and the wound is left open to allow drainage.
The tail bandage is then removed and tetanus antitoxin is administered if necessary . The colt is allowed to recover quietly in the stable. He will be quite sedated for about one hour and “dopey” for about another hour. A small amount of blood and fluid will drip from the wound for 30-60 minutes.
We recommend that colts are usually kept in the stable for the rest of the day and overnight following their castration. They should be turned out the following morning to encourage exercise. This will reduce post-operative wound swelling, although it is likely that there will be some swelling of the sheath. Try to avoid dusty dry paddocks or turning them out with other horses that they will try to mount. Do not attempt to clean the wound but check it each day.
Colt castration under standing sedation is a routine procedure that we have performed many times. It is generally safe, cost effective, and we have very few problems. However, in order to fully inform our clients, some of the potential problems with (any) castrations include:
- Excessive bleeding – usually seen in the first few hours but potentially up to 48 hours post castration – if this happens the horse must be re-examined as soon as possible
- The appearance of tissue dangling from the wound – fatty looking tissue or swollen wound edge – may require removal
- Eventration – the appearance of intestines dangling from the wound – will require further surgery
- Excessive swelling – usually happens in the first few days and is usually due to insufficient exercise but may be an early sign of infection – may require antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.
- Infection – may occur 5-10 days after the procedure and will appear as if one side of the scrotum is swollen – this is potentially very serious and will require antibiotics
- Scirrhous cord – infection within the inguinal canal – will require antibiotics and may require further surgery
Most complications of castration can be dealt with successfully, but prompt detection and treatment maximise the likelihood of a successful outcome. If you have any concerns about the wound, or your horse appears off colour or stiff, please contact us without delay on 01823 662286.
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The Equine Vets at Mount Vets are here to help with any questions you have on this subject – if you need help or advice on any equine veterinary issues please give us a call immediately - we're here to help.