can not cleaning sheath cause cancer like infection? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 04-21-2013, 06:27 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2013
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can not cleaning sheath cause cancer like infection?

One of my neighbors wants to give me her old gelding. Shes elderly and no longer able to care for him physically. Shes owned him for most of his life - hes 22 years old.

I like her and would like to help her out. The horse is also a real sweetheart and very healthy except for his sheath.

The first time I saw him, his sheath was swollen with a raw wound on the opening area and leaking bloody liquid. She says this builds up and occasionally 'bursts'. I saw him again today and his sheath was normal sized, still with a raw wound, and still a little drippy. She says this is skin cancer and that hes had it for several years now. When I questioned her further, she says she does nothing to treat it and that she never cleans his sheath as shes just not physically able to and hasn't been able to for years.

Is it possible that this is just from not having his sheath cleaned? I know nothing about horse sheaths and googling for information just isn't giving me a clear enough idea of possibilities. I'm willing to give him a home for his last years but I'd really like a better idea of what I might be getting into as far as his sheath problem goes.

Anyone have experience with sheath infections or cancer in the sheath?

He seems comfortable, does not seem to be in pain or itchy. I saw him urinate so I know he can do so ok and without signs of distress when he does. I spent a couple of hours grooming him today and just getting to know him to help me decide if I want to take him. Hes very amenable and was willing to let me handle him there, though I didn't try to clean him or anything. I just wanted an idea of whether or not cleaning or treating him there would be a problem. It looks like it wouldn't be a problem to clean him or treat him there. If the treatment burns or hurts...well, that might be a different story though.

I'd love any information you guys can share.

Last edited by Saengchwi; 04-21-2013 at 06:30 PM.
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post #2 of 12 Old 04-21-2013, 09:56 PM
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I've never had a gelding but I'd assume it is more likely to be either an infection or a recurring abscess rather than a cancer. He needs to be seen by a vet. Even if nothing can be done (which I highly doubt) at the very least he needs to have an assessment from a qualified vet.

I'm actually shuddering from the thought of how uncomfortable it must be. Horses are good at hiding discomfort and if it has been that way for years then perhaps he's just used to it, but he must be feeling some sort of discomfort, surely...

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post #3 of 12 Old 04-21-2013, 10:25 PM
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My barn manager has 2 Halflingers that are about 14 and 15. A few months ago she noticed blood on his foot. He is one hairy beast and she couldn't find a wound. She cleaned him and the next day saw more blood and it was also on his stomach. He dropped enough for her to see he was bleeding from the penis. She called the Doc and he said to haul him in but he thought it was cancer of the penis. He got to Doc's and they didn't even unload him - yep...small lesion on the end of his penis with bloody issue. She hauled him to the hospital 60 miles away in Louisiana. It was a small lesion they were able to excise off with a laser. He stayed a day or two taking chemo and she has had to haul him back a few times for chemo. He is doing well but it was cancer.

Last year my gelding was due for cleaning and I had an appointment in 2 days. Went out and his sheath was swollen and hot and he was one uncomfortable boy. I hosed it with cool water and made sure nothing was up in there or a bite from bugs/snake. Took him in the next morning and he had two huge beans.

Don't know which one this poor fellow has but bleeding isn't "normal". My barn owner was pretty lucky. She caught it early and all they had to do was laser it off. I want to say his treatment was around $800 so it wasn't super expensive but it wasn't cheap either!

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post #4 of 12 Old 04-21-2013, 10:40 PM Thread Starter
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I looks awful and I can't imagine having to live with something like that for days let alone years.

If I take him, I'll have him seen and get it treated, but I'm worried that if it is cancer, the treatment might be outside of my budget. I know she wants him to go to someone she 'trusts'...but if his needs are outside of my means, then maybe I can try to help her feel comfortable with giving him to a rescue group if one can be found that can take him.

She loves him dearly and shes really not able physically or financially to do everything for him that he needs any more. I know she wants to be able to know that hes well cared for though.

I don't know...I want to help both him and her, but I'm uncertain. If its an infection or an abcess, I'm sure I can care for that. If its cancer, what I read said that early stages can be treated with creams that are decently priced. A couple hundred for the creams. If its too far gone though then it might need surgery and I'm guessing that might be outside of my budget. I guess I was hoping someone has experienced skin cancer in their horse and has an idea of what it looks like. The pictures and descriptions I've found so far sound like it usually involves at least some lumpy growth? If thats the case then this doesn't fit cancer. She didn't give me a clear answer, but I don't believe shes had a vet look at it. I'll keep reading and see what all I can learn. Maybe I can take him, have him seen and find out for sure whats needed for him and if its outside of my budget, then I can talk to her and see if she'd be ok with him going to a rescue. Just finding a rescue group will take some research.
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post #5 of 12 Old 04-21-2013, 10:46 PM
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Yes, they do get cancer down there.

I had an elderly Paint gelding with cancer on his penis. He had one large lesion (about the size of a quarter) that I treated with blood root and it actually shrunk the lesion and it healed up completely and looked great.

My vet said it is common on horses that have pink skin down there and he really didn't even think it needed to be treated, because in his opinion the horse would die of old age before the cancer became a problem. But I opted to go with the blood root save and that worked for my guy......on the one lesion that I could see.

A few years later I was cleaning his sheath and my hand came out bloody, so I knew he had more cancer higher up in there. But like my vet said, the horse ended up being put down for unrelated health issues so the cancer never really caught up with him.

I would say if you like him take him. Cleaning would certainly make him more comfortable (if he tolerates it) but I don't think the cancer will go away just from cleaning him.

Now the blood root I bought as a powder at the health food store and mixed it with triple antibiotic ointment and smeared it on there once or twice a day (my guy dangled a lot and allowed me to do this). There is a commercially available product which I believe is called Xxterra that has blood root and some other ingredients in it that is made for sarcoids. You could also ask a vet about that.

My guy got itchy and uncomfortable from the blood root before it got better, so I would really only do that again if the horse had a single lesion I was trying to treat. If the whole sheath/penis area is cancerous than I wouldn't subject the horse to the blood root treatment. I would just keep him as happy and healthy as possible and hope that his age catches up to him before the cancer becomes a problem.

I'm not a vet, so that's just a layman's opinion.

My guy lived into his early 30's and when I finally decided to put him down it was due to a back injury and arthritis issues. I was probably aware of the penis cancer from when he was around 25 years old.

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post #6 of 12 Old 04-21-2013, 10:51 PM
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I would have a vet examine him before you decide to take him on. If it's treatable, you'll want to know what the costs will be beforehand, but if it requires surgery or an extensive recovery process, it might be kindest to put him down or manage the condition until the time comes to put him down.
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post #7 of 12 Old 04-21-2013, 10:53 PM
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I think that it may be an ongoing abscess with long standing infection; it doesn't go away because it doesn't drain properly hence the bursting and eventually refilling. Treatment would be draining the site completely and a dose of antibiotics. I further think that if it was cancer you wouldn't see fluxuations in size but you would always see a wound because the cancerous cells would prevent healing and since they keep growing you would see an increase in lump size in that area. Finally, the only way you can really tell is with the help of a vet. Under the circumstances, the only prudent thing to do is arrange a consultation. I hope all works out well for both horse and you in this circumstance.
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post #8 of 12 Old 04-21-2013, 10:58 PM
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I tried to find photos on my computer of my Paint's penis cancer but I couldn't find them. I think I deleted them after he died, because they weren't exactly the kind of photos you save.

It looked like a flat, rough, red patch on a pink skinned area of his penis. Kind of like a rash would be the closest way I could describe it.

I would look into the blood root. It was relatively cheap. I probably paid less than $20 for the blood root powder and a tube or two of triple antibiotic ointment.

I didn't really have a recipe for this, but my vet mentioned the blood root and I just sort of winged it. But it definitely worked! But my guy was itchy for a while too.

I would be guessing if I told you how long it took to treat, because it's been years and I don't remember, but probably around a month. But the lesion started shrinking so I knew it was working and I continued applying it until the spot was completely healed.

Anyway, blood root isn't that expensive. They sell it by the pound and I think I bought about 1/4 pound and I had more blood root than I knew what to do with.

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post #9 of 12 Old 04-21-2013, 11:06 PM
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I lost my 29 year old QH to squamous cell carcinoma in his sheath. It was a very aggressive form of cancer and our vet told us that for every bit we could see, there was likely 3 times that much internally that wasn't visible. He was in no obvious pain most of the time, though he did have bloody discharge from his sheath. On rare occasions he would show almost colicky symptoms, and we would use pain control when needed. We lost him 3 months after he was diagnosed, and he went peacefully. I would definitely have a vet consult before you take him on, and discuss options. It may not be cancerous, but either way, you need to be prepared before you agree to take him.

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post #10 of 12 Old 04-22-2013, 12:33 AM
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How sad!
If she has never done anything to prevent it I would at least have a vet look at it on the outside chance it is just beans and build up that has never been addressed. I can't see how cancer could "burst", but beans located right at the opening of their plumbing can slow the stream down and cause them "drip" - which would probably eventually make a rash around the sheath opening. I don't know what happens if they are not removed though.
Poor fellow. I hope it all works out for him.

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