Sheath Swelling in Geldings
I had my first experience dealing with a swollen sheath (prepuce) last week and I’ll bet you’ll never guess which horse it was! Well, who else but Bob? I’ve figured out that if something’s going to happen around here, it’s likely going to happen to him.
Just about every evening, I give each of my four horses a once-over, checking for anything abnormal (does anyone else do this?). All looked good on this particular day except I happened to notice that Bob’s sheath looked rather large. I checked my other gelding, Hershey, for comparison purposes, and sure enough, Bob’s sheath was definitely swollen.
I had just cleaned his sheath a couple months ago, but I decided I probably needed to clean it again. I hoped this was the cause of the swelling since it was an easy fix. (Luckily, Bob’s very good about getting his sheath cleaned.)
There was quite a bit of smegma (a mixture of dead skin cells, bodily oils, and sometimes dirt) on the outer part of the sheath and some on the inner folds, but nothing too major. I decided I would play the ‘watch and wait’ game to see if the swelling decreased over the next few days. Fortunately, it has gone done some.
Apparently, the accumulation of debris and smegma in the sheath is a common cause of swelling in the region, so this should usually be your first route if you notice slight swelling. If major swelling appears overnight and the area is painful, you may be dealing with something more serious though.
Remember that swelling in the sheath is typically a symptom of some other issue going on–it’s not a diagnosis in and of itself. Here are some of the underlying factors that can cause sheath swelling in geldings:
- Insect bites;
- Injury from a fall or kick to the region;
- Melanoma or squamous cell carcinoma (cancerous growths);
- Bacterial/ Yeast Infection;
- Equine Metabolic Syndrome;
- Cushing’s Disease (usually older horses);
- Insulin Resistance;
- Congestive Heart Disease (older horses); and
- Equine Lymphangitis.
If the sheath swelling is seasonal, the cause is likely metabolic–therefore testing is probably warranted.
Bob also recently had trauma to his hip area (surprise, surprise!), so the sheath swelling may be residual edema that has simply moved downward. I will be keeping an eye on it though.
If the swelling in your gelding’s sheath doesn’t go down in a few days or if it worsens, I wouldn’t hesitate to get him checked by a vet–especially since some of the possible causes are of a more serious nature.