I have a 6 year old gelding that has an extremely swollen sheath. My vet has cleaned his sheath 3 times over the past year and each time has said that nothing is wrong. He is urinating fine however, I am really worried about this. I can't believe that this is normal! I have never seen another gelding with this problem.Do you agree that this is something that I should not worry about?
Name of Horse: Rico
Sheath cleaning by vet because Rico will not let me touch him and bute
Hi, I hope I can help with your question and do let me know if you have any questions regarding my answer/advice.Swollen sheaths are a relatively common problem in male horses and can present with frustration as on the majority of occasions no precise cause is found. Usually local infection/inflammation from a dirty sheath or possible urinary tract infection/inflammation causes it.Thee are some horses that seem to be more prone to it than others and repeated episodes can leave the sheath residually enlarged as a permanent feature. The main problem with the sheath is the anatomical location of it as it is the lowest part of the abdomen and as such any localised swelling will automatically sink with gravity to the sheath causing in some instances very profound swelling. IT can take time for this to shift.This extreme swelling causes the pain associated with sheath swelling which makes cleaning problematic, as during periods of swelling cleaning should be performed over a period of days to remove more stubborn dirt, so a one off clean may not be sufficient and more prolonged cleaning as well as maintenance cleaning long term may be needed to avoid these recurrences.Normally the normal bacterial environment within the sheath keeps it clean but sometimes this is not adequate and flare ups occur.It isn't normally necessary to routinely clean a a horses sheath, but if Rico is a horse that is going to suffer form this problem you may need to consider three monthly cleaning if possible.There are also some instances where cleaning and bute alone are not sufficient and a course of antibiotics can be used to help if infection is suspected and this is something to consider with Rico.So its not something I would worry about, but I would be eager to possibly employ a more frequent spell of cleaning +/- antibiotics to see if that can prolong the period between episodes along side routine cleaning on a 3 monthly basis if he will let you.Cold hosing can also help with the pain and swelling as can movement which helps shift the inflammatory fluid away.Do be sure to where gloves if you are able to clean his sheath as the dirt can be harmful.I hope this answer is helpful and has the expected detail. Do let me know if you have anything further to ask.Good luck and best wishesDr Dan Makin
Since he cocks his leg as if he is going to cow kick me if I touch his sheath, can you suggest any products on the market that I can buy that would calm him down so that I can clean his sheath myself in the manner you suggested? If not, I will have to pay the vet $375 (barn call, time, sedation) a month for 3 visits. Of course, I will do whatever I need to do to help him out.
Hello,That is frustrating that he won't let you do it and your safety is paramount. I presume he does this even when his sheath isn't swollen.There are lots of 'calming' supplements but i doubt they would provide enough sedation for this to be done. A vet can provide ACP paste which is a tranquilliser but does have varying degrees of response so a bit of trial and error would be needed. Have you tried twitching him?There is nothing I am aware of to repopulate or maintain the bacterial environment of the sheath. Over cleaning a normal sheath can cause disruption and I only recommend you cleaning it 3 monthly as it seems to be a chronic problem.My gut instinct tells me you should try a spell of antibiotics first before all this as this maybe all that is needed along with bute, cold hosing and exercise.I hope this helps, do message back if you have any queriesRegardsDan
Equine Veterinary Surgeon
I have not tried twitching and really do not feel comfortable trying it at this point. Rico is a 16.1 hh 1200 6 year old and I know people do that all of the time but he is so strong and willful at times. I best leave it up to the vet. I am going to talk to the vet today about giving me antibiotics like you suggested and then see what happens. Thank you again.
Hi,Thanks for accepting the question and I hope all goes well. I definitely agree that twitching such a large horse for the first time may not be ideal and it is unfortunate he doesn't tolerate having that area cleaned.I hope that a simple course of antibiotics helps and once it is fully improved may provide a more long lasting respite form the condition.Good luck RegardsDan