Looking after the boys

Cleaning the male horse’s penis and prepuce is not something that immediately springs to mind when thinking of maintaining your horse. Many of the horses that we check as part of a dental visit have had little attention in this area. Cleaning of the sheathe area is not a difficult task in itself, rather it is the location (under the horse and close to the hind legs) that is a concern.

The crusty material which is often found on the penis is just sloughed skin cells that have accumulated inside the sheathe, much like it builds up under a bandaid. However there has been a little evidence that there MAY (note: nothing has been proven!) be some association with skin cancers of the penis, especially in horses with little or no pigment in this area. Removal of this material can be done using baby oil, and your hands (with gloves) to gently massage and strip off the crusts from the penis and prepuce. This is most easily accomplished when the penis is relaxed and exposed.

Horses can be trained to drop their penis on demand but it takes patience, and the major concern is that his objection to your actions may be a kick.

The safest way to get things cleaned up is under sedation, but sedation for this purpose alone is not a good enough reason to risk sedation-related side effects or injury. I recommend asking your veterinarian to clean this area if there is a sedative given for another reason.

Every male horse we perform a dental examination and treatment (under sedation) has this area cleaned and checked at no extra charge as part of the examination. Early detection of a problem, and ongoing checks on progress of anything detected, makes another good reason for ensuring your horses receive their annual dental examination.

A question from a reader & our reply:

“I have a question however regarding cleaning the sheath. As part of my EFA training 10 years ago this was considered a necessary task required regularly for the wellbeing of your horse. I believe that more recent studies however have indicated that if the horse’s sheath is cleaned too frequently it actually increases the amount of oil (and crud) that the horse produces, so the penis must then be cleaned more frequently again, more oil is produced and so on and so on.”

Your enquiry demonstrates two schools of thought. My feelings on the matter is that if there is crud there, you can clean it. There has been evidence indicating that leaving a build up of smegma/crud can increase the risk of penile & prepuce cancer.

Our horses have there’s checked every 6 months with their routine dental treatment. This includes an examination for abnormalities & removing any smegma/beans from the diverticulum next to the urethra. We didn’t cover this in our info as sometimes too much information with inexperienced owners can be detrimental to the horse & owner.

You should definitely not be using any disinfectants that will disturb the normal flora of the area. Using baby oil reduces it drying & other effects.

This procedure may not be a suitable task for all owners, depending on their experience & the temperament of their horse.

Don’t forget, Dr Dave does a free penis exam & wash as part of all routine dentals, call 5543 1213 to arrange an appointment.