Routine equine surgical procedures are just that—routine. But that doesn’t mean complications don’t develop. Take castration, for example. It’s one of the most common elective surgical procedures performed in the field, but sometimes things go wrong. Veterinarians must be prepared well in advance to manage any postoperative problems, which for gelding can range from mild swelling to devastating intestinal prolapse.

To that end, P.O. Eric Mueller, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, professor and director of equine programs at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine, in Athens, reviewed how practitioners can prevent and manage castration complications in the field at the 2015 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Convention, held Dec. 5-9 in Las Vegas.

In previous studies researchers reported a complication rate of about 10%, he said. Of those, the vast majority were considered mild, about 20% were considered moderate, and just 3% were considered severe. But severe can mean death in some cases, so knowing how to respond is crucial.

Of course, preventing complications is preferable to having to manage them, so he offered the following tips on castrating:

  • First, be familiar with the pertinent reproductive anatomy and how to perform the procedure properly;
  • Collect an extensive history on the patient, including any previous surgeries or congenital inguinal hernias (those the foal was born with in which intestines have burst through the inguinal canal, a natural opening in the body wall of the horse’s groin area, and into the scrotum or tissue around the sheath);