Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Sores, Crusts or Scabs on Penis or Sheath

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If there is swelling and pain associated with this problem.
  • If the problem seems severe, or involves a large area.

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

  • If the problem seems very mild and limited to a small area.

Red, inflamed or ulcerated areas on the pink skin of the sheath or penis need to be taken seriously. This can be a sign of cancer (most commonly squamous cell carcinoma) which commonly develops in this location especially in high altitude regions with more intense ultraviolet light. This is more common in older horses. Left untreated, cancer of the sheath and penis becomes much more difficult to manage and treat.

Crusts and scabs can also result from the accumulation of debris (smegma) in the sheath. Scabs on the outer skin of the sheath occur due to insect irritation, as well as a variety of other disease processes.

WHAT TO DO

Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the appearance of the sheath and rectal temperature. Assess the sheath, feeling for heat, swelling or pain. Also notice the odor, which can be a clue to different conditions. If possible, gently clean your horse’s sheath. Rinse well. However, do not handle the sheath if it is bleeding, ulcerated, swollen or reddened. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet usually tranquilizes geldings with medications that drop the penis. This allows better visualization of the penis and sheath and easier detection of problems. Depending upon the findings, they may suggest symptomatic treatment, or diagnostics (biopsy) to better understand the disease process.

What Not To Do

Do not take a "wait and see" approach.

Do not assess or clean your horse's sheath if the horse resists. Your vet can clean the sheath while assessing this problem, and while your horse is tranquilized.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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