All of our veterinary surgeons routinely perform castrations and we will be more than happy to speak to you about castrating your horse.
Most horses are castrated at around a year old but the procedure can be done at any age over 6 months. However, if your horse is 4 years of age or older or has ever been used as a stallion then please contact us at the clinic as castration in these circumstances needs careful discussion with a veterinary surgeon and will likely require the procedure to be done under general anaesthesia at the clinic due to the increased risk of complications.
In most instances castration has many advantages. Castrated horses are generally more docile and easier to handle and they also have decreased risks of certain tumours. We recommend that the procedure is carried out in the spring or autumn to avoid the flies in summer and the mud in winter.
We usually carry out castrations under standing sedation either at home or at the clinic. To be done at home we will require a clean, dry area and a competent handler to assist the veterinary surgeon. If you are unsure about whether you can provide the correct environment then please give us a call and we can advise you.
Castration under standing sedation is a quick procedure usually taking around 20-30 minutes and involves operating on your horse under heavy sedation and local anaesthetic injected into the testicles. Your veterinary surgeon will administer antibiotics and pain relief as well as tetanus protection if necessary. Most horses tolerate this procedure fairly well although there can be occasions where we need to convert to a short general anaesthetic for safety reasons. After the operation we recommend that your horse remains stabled for 24 hours on a straw bed to allow him to recover and for the surgical site to settle down. It is important that he is regularly monitored during this time for any complications. After the first 24 hours it is advisable to start in-hand walking for 14 days to reduce any swelling and help the healing process. Your horse may also be turned out to grass after the first 24 hours. No stitches are placed and the wound is left open to allow drainage. It can take up to 3 weeks to heal fully and you can expect a small amount of discharge for the first 10-14 days.
As with any operation there are risks. To help minimise the risks we will only castrate your horse if he is fit and well and not suffering from any ill health. If your horse is to be castrated under general anaesthesia then there are further risks that we will be happy to discuss with you. It is important to note that although deaths from general anaesthesia are rare they can occasionally occur in healthy individuals for no apparent reason.
Other risks associated with castrations are haemorrhage from the surgical site, herniation of intestines through the wound, excessive swelling of the surgical site, infection and peritonitis. These are uncommon and some degree of swelling is normal for the first 3-5 days. If the swelling lasts longer or gets worse or there is any discharge from the wound please call us for advice. Herniation of intestines is an uncommon risk but if it occurs then it is a veterinary emergency that requires immediate veterinary attention. If you see anything unusual protruding from the wound then please call us immediately.
However, most castration wounds heal uneventfully and your horse will be back to work within the month.