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Castration of Horses, Donkeys, and Mules – Position Statement

November 14, 2012

Position

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) regards castration of horses, donkeys, and mules as a veterinary medical procedure which should only be performed by a veterinarian, using appropriate surgical, anesthetic and analgesic techniques. Castration of horses, donkeys and mules is an elective procedure involving significant risk to the animal. The CVMA encourages provincial regulatory authorities to regard castration of horses, donkeys and mules as an act of veterinary practice and regulate accordingly. Furthermore, the failure to provide surgical anesthesia during equine castration would cause avoidable animal suffering.

Background
 
  1. In horses, donkeys, and mules (equids) at birth the testicles are retained within the inguinal rings in most animals and may not descend into the scrotum for some months, precluding neonatal castration (1,2).
  2. Castration of equids is a major invasive surgical procedure with considerable risk of post surgical complications. This surgery is often performed for the benefit of the owner and to facilitate management of the animal. Elective surgeries on animals for human benefit carry the highest moral obligation for professionalism and humane methods including pain mitigation (3,4).
  3. Veterinary examination to establish normal scrotal anatomy and locate testicles prior to surgery is essential and may require sedation and/or general anesthesia in fractious animals. The surgical procedure should be performed in a location that is suitable for the implementation of standard sterile surgical procedures and the patient should have appropriate pre-operative preparation (1, 2).The use of physical methods or muscle relaxants as the only form of restraint to perform equine castration is considered to be animal cruelty. Peri-operative analgesics must be used for pain control (5,6). 
  4. Because of the likelihood of post surgical complication, attentive post surgical monitoring by a competent stockperson is essential. The procedure should include the appropriate information on aftercare from the veterinarian.
References
 
  1. Green P. Castration techniques in the horse. In Practice 2001; 23:250-260 
  2. Searle D, Dart AJ, Dart CM, Hodgson DR. Equine castration: review of anatomy, approaches, techniques and complications in normal, cryptorchid and monorchid horses. Aust Vet J 1999;77:428-433.
  3. Mason BJ, Newton JR, Payne RJ, Pilsworth RC. Costs and complications of equine castration: a UK practice based study comparing standing nonsutured and recumbemt sutured techniques. Eq Vet J 2005;37(5):468-472.
  4. Moll DH, Pelzer KD, Pleasant RS, Modranski PD. A survey of equine castration complications J Equine Vet Sci 1995;15:522-526.
  5. Muir WW. Pain therapy in horses. Equine Vet J 2005;37(2):98-100,
  6. Love EJ, Taylor PM, Clark C, Whay HR, Murrell J. Analgesic effect of butorphanol in ponies following castration. Eq Vet J 2009;41(6):552-556
(Revised November 2012)