Minimally Invasive Ovary Removal Methods for Horses on the Rise

Horse owners might want to have their mares’ ovaries surgically removed for a variety of reasons, including to prevent pregnancy, get rid of tumors, or, most commonly, resolve behavioral issues.
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Laparoscopic ovariectomy
Laparoscopy involves inserting an endoscope and surgical instruments through one or more small incisions, and veterinarians can use it to perform a standing ovariectomy without general anesthesia. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Dean Hendrickson
Horse owners might want to have their mares’ ovaries surgically removed (via a process called an ovariectomy) for a variety of reasons: to prevent pregnancy, get rid of tumors, or, most commonly, resolve behavioral issues.

While surgeons still consider traditional ovariectomy methods effective, they’ve come to favor several newer procedures that are easier on the horse as well as the owner’s pocketbook. Dean Hendrickson, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, reviewed those options at the 2017 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Nov. 17-21 in San Antonio, Texas. Hendrickson is a professor of equine surgery at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

“We find that more and more clients are requesting ovariectomies in order to not have to deal with cycle-related behavior issues,” he said. “It’s generally less expensive in the long run than hormone administration, but it’s not reversible.”

Traditional ovariectomy methods can cost owners $2,500 to $3,000 and include a standing colpotomy (performed through the vagina), recumbent (while lying down) flank ovariectomy, and dorsally (while lying on the back) recumbent midline ovariectomy (performed through the abdominal wall)

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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