I have 18 yr old gelding (been my boy since he was 5 months old). He has always had a large sheath. Recently, I noticed it was swollen. The vet was out and she said it was nice and clean, he just needed exercise. Well that worked for about 2 months and it is now worse.
A different vet said to put him on penicillin; swelling went down but then came back once off the penicillin. At that time he was having light sweats. The vet came out last Friday. He made me some antibiotic cream up so I could take him off the penicillin and had me put him on Bute. It’s been a week. Now the sweating is worse when he does not get the Bute; the swelling is down slightly. I can tell he is in pain. He seems to pee OK and there’s no blood or other discoloration in his urine. He does hang out about 3 inches a lot which is unusual for him. He loves getting the cream put in his sheath. The application itself seems to relieve a lot of the pain. He’s miserable, I am miserable. I am worried sick and don’t know what to do. Anyone else got suggestions or had a similar problem? I have had 2 vets out and absolutely no satisfaction as to how to treat this or knowledge of the source of the problem.
Shari’s Reply (and Reader input below):
Thank you for reaching out to gain assistance for your horse. INFECTION is a clear indicator here. SWELLING means infection. Your vet used, with success, penicillin. Obviously there was/is recurring infection.
Fortunately it is not circulating in your horse's blood, as you have looked for and found no blood in the urine. Please continue to watch for blood in the urine, a sign that the infection is spreading! You may be aware that you cannot keep your horse on penicillin, so you may want to look into alternatives to assist in the battle against infection. I use #25 INFX (Infection Fighter) by Silver Lining with a few horses who have infection issues. What you may want is a product that provides antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral supports for assisting your horse's body to find and release toxins and infection. You can use it ongoing, best 10 days on then off 3 days, then again on for 3 days. The good news is if signs return or are ongoing, you can still continue to use this product.
You may have other natural options in mind as well. Look for Echinacea (Equilite has an excellent formula), also garlic, golden seal; there are many good herbs to aid in fighting infection and boosting your horses immune system!
If you don't mind I'll set up a little background info for us all to familiarize ourselves with the sheath. Slightly sensitive topic, but there is no doubt we are all sensitive to your poor horse’s pain as well.
Sheath/Prepuce: Your horses sheath can also be referred to as the prepuce. This double fold of skin surrounds your horse's penis. The outer surface just looks like skin, but the interior has 2 "hairless" layers: the preputial layer and the penile layer.
For any aestheticians out there, you will recognize similar terminology to acne-ridden young adults. Just as on one’s face, these equine layers also have sebaceous glands, although in this area on your horse, the sebaceous gland secretes a fatty, foul-smelling material called smegma. I bet you've all dealt with or pawned off the task of cleaning the sheath, but it is a necessary assistance for your horse. REMOVE SMEGMA with a mild, non toxic soap as frequently as every 2 weeks.
HOW ARE YOU KEEPING YOUR HORSE’S SHEATH CLEAN? NEVER USE an antiseptic soap, as the flora should not be disturbed.
HAVE YOU USED ANYTHING NEW "IN or ON" YOUR HORSE WHICH HE MAY BE ALLERGIC TO? I am looking for something he might react to such as excess fat in the diet, like corn oil, or a chemical cleansing agent to clean the sheath. Some pattern of occurrence. Likely topical agents are obvious, but adding a high fat diet might be missed as a concern. (Think about a young adult or even elder individual with overactive sebaceous gland activity. Chocolate, caffeine, dirty hands on the face, junk foods...of course these are not related to your horse's issues, but maybe a light bulb moment will surface to trigger something affecting the sheath nutritionally.)
MARE INTERACTION/FORMER STUD USE? Any chance of activity in this category to consider?
TRAUMA is a possible consideration (as noted by your vet): Your vet was wise to consider trauma to the area, as inflammation can certainly be created from trauma such as your horse being kicked in the penile area.
Here's to getting your horse on the road to a pain and infection free sheath!
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We visited your website yesterday, looking for answers after our Belgian developed a swollen prepuce. No sores, nice clean sheath, no fever, no heat, no bugs this time of year, urinalysis was normal, rectal palpation was normal, and there was no obstruction.
After one long distance vet trip and lots of phone calls, we have come across a vet familiar with this problem.
It is circulatory.
We were told it is most often present in "well bred" horses (smaller gene pool, poorer immune system in some cases) and that he also ALWAYS checks for swamp fever, because he feels it is linked to compromised immunity.
I saw where this reply suggested that swelling indicates infection, and yet, in this case, I feel that is not the problem.
We have been advised to use an anti inflammatory initially, and we are also giving penicillin to cover the negative steroid effects. This is a short-term treatment, and we will be looking into natural products to improve the circulation of our buddy Brutus.
Besides the swelling, he would let his penis out about half way and kick at it.
I felt it was important to share our discoveries with you, in hopes of helping others.
Sincerely, Erin Duperron
I read the article about the horse with the swollen sheath and what came to my mind was that perhaps the horse could benefit from myofascial release of the scar tissue formed as a result of his being gelded. Perhaps he injured himself (kicked at a fly) and the restricting fascia around the gelding scar is causing inflammation in that area. In the body work that I do, I have seen many geldings with restriction in this area. Once the Gelding Scar is released, many times pelvic misalignments and gait deviations will correct themselves. The reason I thought of this is that the horse's owner commented that he really liked it when she applied a cream to the area. Her massaging the cream into his sheath area sounds as if her horse was getting relief from the restriction. Usually I find the area directly behind the gelding scar is cold to the touch if the horse has a restriction in the fascia. However, with her horse's sheath being swollen and reacting positively to the massage in spite of the swelling, I tend to think it may be worth a shot for her to seek out a trained / qualified massage person who knows how to do myofascial release techniques.
Regards, Deb Crane, Equine Sports Therapies, Brooklyn, CT