Tuesdays with Tony

Sheath Maintenance

 Whew, that’s some chilly air out there! I hope you all had a lovely weekend and enjoyed the brisk air. I know I did.  With the change in temperature, I was reminded that 2021 is right around the corner and with the new year in view, our 2021 Wellness Plan sign-ups are about to be in full swing. As you all know, our Wellness Plans are the best thing since sliced bread and include all the yearly care your horse requires including vaccines, coggins, fecal, dental, and deworming.  An often-overlooked aspect of our Wellness Plans, however, is the sheath cleaning.  This is a very important aspect of your horse’s care that my docs take very seriously.  Take it from this old cat, sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most.


Your horse’s sheath can tell my docs a lot about your horse’s overall health. Believe it or not, there is such thing as too much cleaning. Once a year cleaning is all it needs. Ideally, your horse’s yearly cleaning should be performed by a veterinarian while under sedation.  Why, you ask? Well, let me tell you. For one, SAFETY. Safety for you, safety for my docs, safety for me, and safety for your horse.  Some horses do not mind when their private areas are inspected. However, most horses do not approve of such invasiveness. They like to make their disapproval known by using those muscular back legs that quickly go in many different directions when they are angry.  I know I would need some serious sedation if someone was going to inspect me “down there”, so just do yourself and your horse a favor and have my docs sedate before cleaning.

 Surprisingly enough, the cleaning part of sheath cleaning is not the most important part. During a cleaning, my docs will inspect your horse’s sheath including his prepuce, head, and shaft for any abnormalities. They will note any changes from the previous year’s exam. After the exam, they will inspect the head for any “beans”. The bean develops in the urethral fossa and is a buildup of dead skin cells, sweat, dirt and dried urine. If a bean is left to enlarge on its own, it can cause your horse to have difficulty urinating.  When any animal strains to urinate, cats included, it can be life threatening. Better for you and your horse if you allow my docs to clean out the bean once yearly. 

 You will notice that soap is rarely used in the cleaning process and typically only warm water, soft cotton and lube will be employed to clean your horse’s sheath. This is because a healthy sheath is covered in good bacteria. The more products used in and around your horse’s sheath deplete the good bacteria and allow for introduction of bad bacteria to your horse’s nether region. Best bet: leave the cleaning to the experts.


As I have already mentioned, when my docs are cleaning your horse’s sheath, they will thoroughly inspect him for any abnormalities. Abnormalities include skin lesions, masses, and injuries. It is important to recognize any problems with your horse’s sheath early. The sooner the problem is noticed, the sooner my docs can initiate treatment. Horses with pink skin are prone to cancerous lesions known as Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Squamous Cell Carcinoma is skin cancer that rears its ugly head on light pink skin in the form of ulcerative lesions. When my docs sedate your horse, they will thoroughly inspect his sheath and penis for any pre-cancerous or cancerous lesions. They may recommend biopsy or treatment depending on what the lesion looks like. 

 As you all know, grey horses like to get tumors all over. These tumors, known as melanoma, are usually benign and do not metastasize. However, they can develop tumors in and around their sheaths, YIKES! If the tumors get large enough, they may cause an obstruction in urination.  That is why it is best to have the docs check out your horse’s sheath once a year to keep an eye on any developing tumors and guide treatment. You wouldn’t believe the number of injuries that can happen to horse’s genital areas. You would think they would protect their sensitive bits, but no, as per usual, horses hurt themselves in the most inopportune times in the most inopportune ways, including their sheaths. 

 Lacerations and puncture wounds are relatively common and require emergency treatment. However, other injuries such as nerve and/or muscle damage may go unnoticed until their yearly examination by the docs.  Damage to nerves and muscles can lead to shafts that point in an abnormal direction. While this usually does not cause a problem for most males, it can absolutely be problematic for breeding stallions.  It can also lead to urine scalding of the abdomen or hind legs depending on which way it points. Having the docs perform a thorough examination once a year will help ensure your horse does not develop any problems with his sheath and if there is problem it can be addressed quickly. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 What Not To Do

You never knew there was so much to talk about your horse’s sheath, did you? Well, don’t worry, there’s more.  I have been told that some people are obsessed over their horse’s sheath.  Please, for the love of cat, STOP! The more you mess with it the more problems you will have.  As we tell little boys, if you keep playing with it, it is going to fall off! We know that is not actually the case, but the more you mess with it the more trouble you will cause.  Unless my docs instruct you to, please stop putting medications up your horse’s sheath.  It changes the bacterial flora and allows for bad bacteria to breed and infection to occur.  Some topical can be very abrasive and can burn your horse’s sensitive skin. Yes, smegma is gross and stinky, believe me, I know, and you may think cleaning it out every day will help, but it won’t!

 Let my docs do the cleaning once a year, I promise you that’s all your horse needs.  Some approved topical for AROUND your horse’s sheath are Kinetic Vet IBH and SWAT as bug prevention, and Kinetic Vet SB as Sunblock.  Before you apply anything other than one of those 3 topicals, please call my vets. They would love to talk to you about your horse’s sheath. They are weirdos like that. But you gotta love them!

 Tune in this Thursday for a live Seminar to talk about your horse’s nutrition. I heard through the grapevine there may be some giveaways for participating!

 Until next week,


Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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