Acepromazine for Tranquilizing Male Horses: Pros and Cons

Acepromazine, often called simply Ace, is commonly used to tranquilize horses for veterinary procedures. However, its use in male horses can cause penile prolapse, or an inability to retract the penis back into the sheath. This effect is desire

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Acepromazine, often called simply Ace, is commonly used to tranquilize horses for veterinary procedures. However, its use in male horses can cause penile prolapse, or an inability to retract the penis back into the sheath. This effect is desired in some instances, such as when acepromazine helps the horse "let down" for sheath cleaning.

In rare cases, however, this prolapse can be permanent, requiring amputation of part or all of the penis due to persistent swelling, hematomas, and/or injury.

At the 2009 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Dec. 5-9 in Las Vegas, Nev., two veterinarians presented evidence on the pros and cons of using acepromazine in stallions and geldings. Nora Matthews, DVM, Dipl. ACVA, professor of anesthesia at Texas A&M University, discussed the benefits of using acepromazine, while Ann Wagner, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVA, ACVP, professor of veterinary clinical sciences at Colorado State University, presented the downsides.

"In Dr. Hubbell’s survey, about two-thirds of the veterinarians surveyed said they use acepromazine on male horses," noted Matthews. She added that a survey of American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists members found that the majority use acepromazine in male horses, and 5% recalled at least one case with transient penile prolapse lasting more than 12 hours

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Written by:

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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