Why is My Gelding’s Sheath Swollen?

A swollen sheath might be a minor issue, but it also could have more serious implications, one veterinarian says.
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Why is My Gelding
Overweight horses, especially those with equine metabolic syndrome, tend to deposit fat in their prepuce area. Weight loss and simply encouraging your horse to move more to improve circulation can resolve the swelling for many older horses. | Photo: iStock

Q. My 22-year-old gelding’s sheath is often swollen. It doesn’t really seem to bother him as far as I can tell. Is this something I should be concerned about or have my veterinarian look at?

—Sharon, Michigan

A. This is something we commonly see in older horses. You should have your vet do a thorough examination of your horse to rule out things such as penile or preputial (sheath) tumors. He or she will sedate your gelding, if necessary, to clean the penis and prepuce (foreskin), remove any smegma buildup at the tip of the urethra (the “bean”), and thoroughly inspect for abnormalities

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Written by:

Wendy Krebs, DVM, is a partner at Bend Equine Medical Center in Bend, Oregon. She grew up in western Oregon where she participated first in 4-H and later in eventing. She graduated from Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2002 and performed a yearlong equine internship, followed by a four-year American College of Veterinary Surgeons Equine Surgery residency. Her practice interests include surgery and performance horse care, as well as comprehensive preventive care. She lives on a small working ranch in Tumalo with her husband, two young children, and a bevy of animals, including nine horses. She enjoys riding her Oldenburg mare, Aria, emergency schedule permitting.

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