When to castrate:
Colts can be castrated at any age. It can be done standing under sedation if both testicles are in the scrotum. If the testicles are very small, it may not be easy to do standing and so the vet may elect to leave them to grow a bit larger.
The operation can be performed at home providing conditions are suitable. A well-lit stable with a clean, deep straw bed is ideal. Sedation and local anaesthesia are used.
If colts are castrated standing then the entrance to the abdomen cannot be closed and there is a very small risk that intestine may come out of the castration incisions. This can be fatal. It is also not always possible to close off all the blood vessels and, therefore, there is a risk of haemorrhage. This can be fatal if it is profuse and it is not dealt with promptly. The skin incisions are left open to help post-operative drainage.
Castration under general anaesthetic:
If the castration is performed at the surgery under a general anaesthetic then the entrance to the abdomen can be closed and the blood vessels properly tied off. This virtually eliminates the risk of intestine coming through the incision or excessive haemorrhage.
There is a 1 in 100 risk of death associated with general anaesthesia in horses.
If two testicles cannot be felt in the scrotum and the animal is very young, you could wait a while to see if they appear as they grow. If you cannot wait or they don’t appear then the horse is known as a rig and the castration will usually be done under a general anaesthetic. This may involve an incision into the abdomen to search for the testicles. Sometimes rig castrations may be performed standing or under a general anaesthetic by laparoscopy. This is a form of keyhole surgery.
Colts should be stabled for a few hours immediately post castration to monitor for excessive haemorrhage or anything coming through the incisions. Some bleeding is to be expected after castration but you should be able to count the drops of blood and it should only last for a few hours. The scrotum will usually swell to a certain degree but should remain non-painful and there should be minimal discharge.
If everything appears to be normal the day after surgery then the animal is usually best turned out to exercise. This will help reduce the post-operative swelling.
You should contact the practice immediately if you are concerned about the amount of haemorrhage, discharge or swelling or if anything can be seen coming through either incision.
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