Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Poor Harvster: The nether regions

It's been hot. Hot and buggy. Remember last year Harv's underbelly was swollen? This year it is another body part. Late last week, Harv's sheath started to swell.  As a precaution, I called the vet to have him take a look, and he cleaned Harv's sheath. A tube of aloe-based creme was to be applied to the sheath.

 Two days later the swelling had doubled, and Monday he seemed to like to have his member hanging out.  Panicking a little, I...
  • called the vet
  • started him on SMZs
  • bought some utter butter to slather on him.
  • Bought a jar a swat just for him.
  • lunged him (he seemed to like to move, and he trotted around me happily and moving well)
He's been about the same for three days now. He is not swollen or retaining fluid anywhere else. 

Poor Harv. He is such a good patient, so stoic, it's hard to say how uncomfortable he really is. Being an oldster, I feel like any ailment could potentially be a health risk for him.


  1. This happens to my gelding at least once every spring/summer. My vet says that it's an allergic reaction to stinging insects. He will sometimes swell enough that you can see his sheath hanging down from across the field. His member will also hang out a little, which I was told was due to swelling inside the sheath itself. I give him a dose of Ani-hist as soon as I notice it, and then for a few days after until it goes down. Cold hosing also helps, if your boy will stand for it.

  2. Edema's on the sheath always look bad, and take a long time to go away. You have gravity and elasticity working against you. I had a gelding who was a lot worse. We put a newly weaned foal in with him and the baby so wanted to nurse on anything and the gelding was too kind-hearted to kick him away. His lasted for a month!
    He probably doesn't even notice it.

  3. I have gone through this with my 23 year old gelding countless times, nearly always in the summer although I've noticed he gets a little swollen after spring shots. Looks exactly like your picture and regardless of what we've done it's resolved normally within a few days. He has respiratory allergies that have been helped immensely with Tri-Hist, and I suspect the sheath-swelling is allergy related also. Will be interested to see if he has any episodes on the Tri-Hist.

  4. Hi Stacey, I've been following your blog for a while. I don't comment on blogs very often, but I thought I'd throw my 2 cents worth in on this one. I had an older gelding who had similar issues. He would get swollen along his ventral line sometimes and other times he was swollen in his nether regions. He was around 25 years old and I really didn't know what to make of it at the time. As he got older he started having nutritional/digestive problems, because no matter what he ate he wasn't maintaining weight. The vet had diagnosed him as having equine metabolic syndrome. This was quite a few years ago and since then he has passed away.

    I've been learning more about equine nutrition over the years. Some of what I've learned is that early signs of sugar imbalance (which is what causes laminitis and other metabolic disorders) can show as swelling through the nether regions. And looking back at my older gelding I'm wondering if what I was feeding was the root cause of many of his problems. To try and keep weight on him he was getting a significant amount of Equine Senior, along with grass hay and sometime alfalfa. He did have teeth issues so he would pick through his hay and eat all the Equine Senior.

    One of my current horses, who is 6 years old, has had some laminitic issues, which has made me revisit feed for my horses. I've been feeding low starch/low sugar grain along with grass hay. My 6 year old gelding had swelling in his nether regions and I had to make some significant changes to his care. I had to move boarding facilities to ensure I could control exactly what and how much he was eating and the swelling has been gone and there has been no reoccurences of laminitis. He gets fed grass hay only and has lost some weight (for him its a good thing).

    However, my 7 year old mare, started having problems just eating the grass hay and started losing weight too much (go figure). So I went back to feeding her low starch/sugar grain, but she still wasn't maintaining her weight. So I was looking for more feed options. I started feeding Chaffhaye and my mare has been able to maintain her weight again. I was thinking about my older gelding when looking at what the Chaffhaye has to offer and it probably would have been a huge improvement for him, because it's set up to help with the digestion and is still low in sugar.

    So I guess my two cents worth is, double check the nutritional side too, just to make sure it's not something there.

  5. Thanks rebecca -- interesting! Harv is on quite a bit more senior than he was a few years ago, b/c he can't eat hay so much any more. If this does not resolve the problem I'll look at sugar intake. I appreciate the advice, I had not thought of that...

  6. Both my 18 yo Andalusian cross and my 6 yo quarter horse came down with the same thing a couple of weeks ago. After a lot of exploration, it turns out that it was an allergy to bug bites. Both went on horse benadryl for 10 days and both are completely better. But I do a lot more fly spray on their sheaths now and use swat too.

  7. My 23-year old Hano gelding had a similar issue earlier this spring - I thought of all that Rebecca wrote above and was looking into that when I found a tiny tick attached way up in the furthest nether regions - because of where it was, the swelling seemed to drop down into the sheath area, exactly like Harv's. I removed the tick and the swelling got better very fast.

    I'm feeding him Eleanor Kellon's complete senior mix that is balanced along with our hay, and have two seniors doing wonderfully on it - but it's not for IR horses due to the carbs involved. Good idea to review the diet while sorting things out!

  8. Did the swelling go down after exercise? Sometimes geldings get edema in that very spot because it's hot and they aren't moving much--sort of like how our feet swell if we're not moving much.

    1. Yes my gelding had sheath swelling this past winter that would go down when exercised and went completely away when spring came and he was turned out in pastures and was able to move more throughout the day.

  9. Good advice from others. I tend towards the tick bite theory as the most logical. Since the sheath is a low spot, fluid would be likely to collect there in an edema. Could be an allergic reaction to something too. Any weeds or plants that might be blooming with all the wet and heat we've had.

    The senior horses are always a worry. Seems they can be sensitive to things that never bothered them in their youth.

  10. My gelding had some swelling in the nether region a few times and it turned out that they were spider bites. Sometimes when they lay down in the shavings, this would happen. I would give my horse some antihistamine and it worked.

  11. Poor Harv. I hope you can find a solution soon.

  12. My arab's sheath would swell like this when he was in his late teens, early 20s. He'd get it any time he stood around, a walk up the road and back usually did the trick.

  13. My OLD gelding (29 now), gets this type of swelling in the winter. ?? Poor thing. I always think I should make some sort of polar fleece "snuggy" to wrap around his waist. :)

  14. My oldster is suffering from the same for the last week or so. Cold water hosing. Fly spray and swat. 24 hour turnout is about all I can think to do for him. I do feel bad for him though...


Hi Guys, Your comments are valued and appreciated -- until recently I never rejected a post. Please note that I reserve the right to reject an anonymous post.