Although it's a painful option to consider (especially for the males in the profession), for some horse health problems the best treatment is partial phallectomy, or amputation of part of the penis. Such conditions might include penile injury, chronic paraphimosis (inability to retract the penis into the sheath), neoplasia (tumors), and stenosis (narrowing) of the urethra that compromises the horse's ability to urinate.

At the 2008 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Dec. 6-10 in San Diego, Calif., Carolyn Arnold, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, clinical assistant professor of veterinary medicine at Texas A&M University, discussed eight horses (four geldings/four stallions) that underwent a modified Vinsot's technique for partial phallectomy. She reported success with the standing band tourniquet/amputation procedure in all horses, with minor complications (urine scalding) in only two cases. The bands fall off after three to four weeks, leaving dime-sized wounds that heal quickly, Arnold reported.

Six horses only required local anesthesia for the procedure, and two required additional sedation. Stallions were castrated after the phallectomy procedure. Following the procedure, the horses underwent 24 hours of stall rest followed by 30 days of small paddock turnout (geldings) or 30 days with 20 minutes of forced exercise twice a day (recently castrated stallions).

"The modified Vinsot's technique of partial phallectomy may be useful for horses that are unsuitable for general anesthesia (because of generalized poor health) or for those whose owner has imposed a financial limitation that does not allow the horse to be anesthetized," said Arnold.

The logical question is how the stallion urinates following phallectomy with a tourniquet in place. Arnold discussed two possible locations for the new urethral opening: on the ventral (lower) surface of the penis proximal to (above) the tourniquet, and 3 cm below the rectum (subischial location). She prefers the subischial location because it is safer for the practitioner and allows amputation of more of the penis, although it will result in urine scalding if the horse does not learn to lift his tail to urinate.

In conclusion, she noted that the procedure was humane, effective, well-tolerated, inexpensive ($200 or less compared to up to $2,000 for phallectomy under general anesthesia), easy to perform, and practical (requiring only one veterinary visit).

About the Author

Christy M. West

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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