We recommend that colts are castrated from six months to (hopefully!) make them a little calmer and easier to manage. This is done over the winter months to reduce the risk of infection or fly infestation of the surgical wounds during healing.
Castration can be carried out using standing sedation and local anaesthetic, or under general anaesthesia. For standing castration, it is important that both testicles are descended and no other abnormal structures (suggesting a hernia) are felt within the scrotum.
Standing castration is an open procedure, meaning the wounds are left open and no suture (stitching) material is used, which reduces the risk of infection. The open skin wounds allow inflammatory fluid to drain which reduces excessive swelling. Open castrations can also be done under general anaesthetic; sometimes due to surgeon preference, sometimes due to colt’s size or temperament.
After a standing castration, it is expected that blood will drip a little from the wounds.
This should slowly stop over the following hours. Over the next five days, swelling of the
scrotum usually occurs which reduces about 2 weeks after surgery. This can be managed by
medication with anti-inflammatories such as ‘bute’. It is important to remember that swelling
does not necessarily mean the area is infected. Gentle exercise in the form of daily turn out
can help reduce swelling. Fly repellent in the surrounding area (not in the wounds) may be
required during the warmer months.
Stallion-like behaviour, driven by hormones, can remain for approximately six weeks and
turnout with mares should not begin until at least four weeks post-castration. After this
time, your colt can be treated as a gelding, making management easier.
In older horses, those been working as breeding stallions, or donkeys, the risk of
complications is increased and as such, closed castration is often advised. This is done under
general anaesthetic and sutures (stitches) are placed. This is a more expensive procedure
but it does lessen the risk of complications.
Unfortunately, castration is a surgical procedure that carries quite a high risk of
complications. Knowing what is to be expected after castration means you can identify any
Significant bleeding can occur after the sedation wears off and the horse wakes up. If the
drops of blood cannot be counted, or a stream of blood is seen, then the vet will need to
return to assess the surgical wounds.
Due to the nature of the open standing castration, very rarely, herniation can occur and
abdominal contents can protrude from the wounds. Although this is incredibly rare, it is
important to know that it is a veterinary emergency.
Infection is probably the most commonly encountered complication and is seen as excessive
swelling, heat or discharge from the wounds. Sometimes a course of antibiotics is required,
and occasionally, the horse will require additional surgery to remove any infected tissue,
particularly if it is long-standing or severe.
DENTAL AWARENESS MONTH - MARCH 2023
We will be celebrating dental awareness month in March, which is a great opportunity to take advantage of our dental offers. Check out our social media for interesting facts about equine teeth!
Horses are ‘flight’ animals and are very good at hiding pain. They may only show signs of mouth or tooth pain when disease is severe. The adage ‘no pain, look again’ is one that the profession regularly quotes.
As a minimum standard of care, we would recommend all horses have a full oral examination once a year, with treatment as required. We’re all grateful when we visit the dentist annually and don’t need treatment, so maybe your horse feels the same!
Horse’s teeth continually erupt throughout the horse’s lifetime, usually growing approximately 2-3 mm annually. This is countered by a continual reduction as the teeth are
ground down whilst eating grass and fibrous forage.
The incisors at the front of the mouth are simple teeth and relatively problem free when compared to the cheek teeth. The most common problems we see with incisors are fractures in any age of horse or pony and Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis (EOTRH) which is a progressive disease of older equine incisors that is being increasingly recognised. Surprisingly, horses can thrive with no incisors at all!
Although we can only see the incisors, the cheek teeth are viewed as more important for chewing food ready for digestion.
The teeth are very tightly apposed so they can act as a single chewing unit, with the upper cheek teeth wider set than the lower cheek teeth.
Although chewing grinds down the teeth as they grow, the differing jaw widths mean that the upper teeth develop sharp edges on the outside, by the cheeks, and the lower teeth develop sharp edges on the inside, by the tongue.
Common problems identified at annual examination include:
- Sharp enamel points (edges)
- Focalised overgrowths, particularly on the first and last cheek teeth
- Increased or reduced height of the teeth (commonly called overgrowths)
- Diastemata (gaps) between the teeth
- Ulceration of the cheeks or tongue
- Abnormalities of the teeth surface, including caries or open pulp horns
In order to identify these problems, the horse will need to be appropriately restrained, mouth opened using a gag and a head torch and mirror used. If there are concerns, your vet or dental technician may recommend examination with an oroscope (camera) or x-rays.
Sharp enamel points and overgrowths can be reduced. This is normally done with a motorised instrument but also can be done manually using hand rasps. Large overgrowths will require sequential visits to reduce them, as if they are reduced too aggressively, the sensitive part of the tooth may be exposed and there is a risk of future tooth root infections or tooth death.
Routine rasping can be done by an appropriately trained vet or an Equine Dental Technician (EDT). Only veterinary surgeons have the ability to use sedation and are also legally permitted to diagnose and treat diseases of the teeth and oral cavity. More advanced dental
procedures are usually undertaken by veterinary surgeons that have appropriate extra training in dentistry.
If using an EDT, we recommend using an individual who is registered with the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT). This means the EDT is part of a professional body of individuals who have been rigorously examined by British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) and the British Veterinary Dental Association and have appropriate insurance and a code of conduct. Category 2 members of the World Wide Association of Equine Dentists (WWAED) also hold a qualification recognised by BEVA.
At Ashbrook, we will sedate horses for EDTs holding these recognised qualifications.
If you’d like to discuss any aspect of your horse’s dental care, or if your horse is due their routine dental examination and treatment, please call the office on 01565723030 to chat with
one of our vets and book an appointment.
MEET THE TEAM
Trainee Veterinary Nurse
Charlotte completed a degree in Equine Science at Reaseheath College. After working at a local livery yard and riding school, Charlotte initially joined us as a veterinary nurse assistant. Charlotte has now begun her equine nurse training at Liphook Equine Nursing School and is looking
forward to returning to studying!