Castration involves surgical removal of the testicles. It is performed on colts to modify their behaviour and to prevent them from breeding. Castration is usually performed before the age of 18 months. Any colt older than 9 months of age should not be put on pasture with fillies and mares if you do not want foals by that colt.
- In normal colts, the testicles have descended into the scrotum at birth
- In some colts, called high flankers, one testicle does not completely descend into the scrotum and remains in the inguinal canal. As the testicle grows in size from birth, it becomes easier to remove.
- Testicles that remain in the abdominal cavity, without descending into the scrotum, require more complicated surgery to remove. These foals are known as cryptorchids or 'rigs'.
- Before the surgery, the colts hould be halter broken and accustomed to handling so it can be easily managed during and after surgery.
- Tetanus immunisation is necessary before or during surgery.
- All our castrations are done with the colt under general anaesthesia in a well grassed area of the paddock. This can be done on your property.
- Once the colt is under anaesthetic, he can be turned onto his back and balanced there by holding his legs. This allows for optimal sterility and better visualisation for the surgical site.
- The surgical procedure involves opening the scrotum and dissecting out the testicle. The cord of blood vessels attached to the testicle is clamped and crushed using a pair of emasculators and the testicle remove.
- Under most circumstances, this is a totally open surgery and no sutures are used or required. The skin wounds are also left open to drain.
- Occasionally, particularly when castrating older stallions, the wounds may be packed with absorbent material, which is then removed the next day. This is to fill the dead space left when removing larger testicles and to provide extra pressure to assist clotting.
- When the surgery is complete, the colt must be allowed to recover in a quiet environment to get up when he is ready. It is important not to try and rush this recovery. Once the colt is up, he should be left alone until he is alert and steady on his feet.
- Though castration is a common surgical procedure, certain complications can develop after surgery. It is nearly impossible to predict if post-operative complications will occur.
- Bleeding: this can occur after castration of a horse with a clotting abnormality or a horse with abnormally large testicular blood vessels. The testicular blood vessels enlarge as a stallion ages. Thus, the younger the horse when it is castrated, the less potential for post-operative bleeding. If a horse is over 2 yrs of age at the time of castration, control of bleeding is a greater concern, and makes surgery more time consuming.
- Inguinal hernia: in some horses, the opening in the abdominal cavity (inguinal canal) through which the testicles descend into the scrotum is abnormally large or flexible. In these horses, the intestines and other abdominal tissue can pass through the inguinal opening (herniate). Though inguinal hernias are uncommon, they are a serious and often fatal complication.
- Infection: after the testicles are removed, the scrotal incision is not sutured and is allowed to heal from the inside out. If the incision closes prematurely, infection can be sealed inside. The after care instructions outlined below should help prevent infection.
- Pregnancy: a recently castrated gelding can still get a mare in foal for some time after castration because of sperm remaining in the conducting system. Recently castrated geldings should be kept away from females for at least thirty days.
Care after Castration
Post-operative care is usually needed for at least 2 weeks after castration, so schedule the surgery for a time when this commitment is not a hardship for you. Ideally, you should develop a rapport with and feel comfortable around the young stallion before we geld him to make aftercare easier and safer. It can take months for stallion like behaviour to moderate after castration.
Conscientious post-operative care is essential for a smooth, uncomplicated recovery. The post-operative period is also a good time to begin daily training of your young horse.
- For the first few hours after surgery, keep the horse reasonably confined and calm as he recovers from his anaesthetic. During the first six hours after surgery, he should be checked every hour. Look for streaming of blood from the wound and if this happens we must be contacted immediately. Dripping of blood is expected but not in a continuous stream. Also call us if there are any colic signs or any dramatic increase in scrotal swelling or anything abnormal protruding from the wound.
- It is a good idea to monitor the rectal temperature daily from the day after surgery and record this reading.
- The exercise program should consist of 15 minutes of controlled exercise, both morning and evening. Lunginga t the trot is best. The horse may start off still gaited behind, but this stiffness resolves with more exercise.
- After exercise, use a hose to direct a stream of water against each side of the scrotum for at least 2 minutes. Spray from the side, NOT directly up into the wound. This hydrotherapy cleans the wound and stimulates healing. Many horses initially resent hydrotherapy but gradually come to enjoy it.
- Apply fly spray around the flanks and hind- quarters. Spray from the side and do not spray from underneath directly up into the wound.
- For the first few days, the scrotum may swell up to 4 times its original size. This is normal and will reduce with exercise. The scrotum is usually back to normal size after day 5.
- For the ten days after the surgery, the wound edges will be red but this gradually resolves as the wound heals.
- Under most circumstances, no medication is required other than what is given at the time of surgery.
- For the first two weeks after surgery, it is best if the horse can stay out in a paddock as much as possible to encourage self-exercise and drainage from the surgical site.