Dirty or Shy?

Q:I rescued a gelding earlier this year, and I have noticed he has some weird tendencies when urinating. I haven't seen him drop his penis, so when he urinates he just pees and walks away while still urinating. Could this be a sign of a problem, or is it just odd behavior?  

via e-mail

A:Geldings are just like boys--they may urinate standing up or sitting down, or even walk while urinating. So this odd behavior may be normal for your new gelding. The most common medical reasons for a gelding not to drop while urinating include massive collections of dirt and grime (smegma) in the urethral diverticulum (often called "beans") and on the sheath; an allergic reaction or inflammatory response; squamous cell carcinoma (a cancer); habronemiasis (a disease caused by parasites in the urethral process); or a normal reaction for a specific horse.

I would recommend having your horse's sheath cleaned (see TheHorse.com/Video.aspx?vID=533 for a how-to video) at least once or twice a year (some males' sheaths are dirtier and may require more frequent cleaning). Cleaning a stallion's or gelding's sheath can be very beneficial. With mild sedatives (which should be administered by your veterinarian), most male horses will extend their penis. This gives the veterinarian an opportunity to examine the anatomy for any abnormalities or suspicious masses.

Squamous cell carcinoma is a common cancer associated with the penis and prepuce and has a grave prognosis. Habronemiasis can be found on the penis also, but it can be prevented with regular deworming (have your horse's feces tested to determine your deworming protocol). If you note swelling in your horse's sheath area, be sure to call your veterinarian. Swelling often resides in the prepuce because of its location on the body (fluid is drawn down with gravity). Swelling can indicate possible trauma, an inflammatory response, or an allergic reaction.

A complete blood count and chemistry profile and urine sample testing can help your veterinarian determine any underlying issues.

About the Author

Kati Lukas, DVM

Kati Lukas, DVM, is a veterinarian with Lukas Equine Veterinary Service in Barrington, Ill.

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