What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Sores, Crusts or Scabs on Penis or Sheath


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.

  • 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.

your role


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 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.

your vet's role

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.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How old is the horse?
  • When did you first notice this problem?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Can you send me a photo?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnoses

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
more treatments

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP