This section is from the book "The Farmers Ready Reference Or Hand Book Of Diseases Of Horses And Cattle", by S. C. Orr. . Also available from Amazon: The Farmer's Ready Reference;.
Although we are strongly in favor of the employment of either a veterinarian or a "professional castrator" to perform this operation instead of giving the job to anyone who may have the "cheek" to attempt it, especially when some one else furnishes the subject for the experiment, yet, as it is not always possible to obtain an experienced operator, we will give a few simple rules by which the owner may be able to do his own work in a case of necessity, together with hints from our own experience in regard to the proper age and time of year at which to perform the operation.
There is a great difference of opinion as to the age at which a colt should be castrated. Some writers, in high authority, advocate castration at any time after the colt has become straightened up after birth or as soon as the testicles can be got hold of. Whilst others favor letting the colt run until two or even three years of age in order to obtain better development. We have castrated at all ages from the sucking colt of one month to the old stallion, and while we admit that the younger the colt the less the pain attending the operation, yet there is one serious objection to the operation at that age. It is well known that many young colts, either at birth or soon after, are affected with scrotal hernia - rupture of the inguinal region, allowing some part of the entrails to descend into the scrotum, which will be treated under Rupture in Foals, and as we always examine the parts thoroughly before beginning the operation, we have found many cases in which, although there was no rupture, the parts appeared so weak as to be in danger of breaking through with the slightest struggling possible during the operation; or, if not then, it would certainly take place during the weakened condition from the slight inflammation that must necessarily follow the operation Castration at weaning time, providing the season is favorable, does not meet with this objection, as the parts have grown stronger. But, unless there is some good reason for having the operation performed early, we consider the age of one year the best, and it should be done not later than two years old unless for some good reason. The development of the colt should always be taken into consideration as follows; Beginning at the age of one year, if the fore and hind quarters are equally developed, any time up to the age of two years will do. If the fore quarters are heavy, the neck full and the hind quarters light, the sooner it is done the better. But, if the hind quarters are square and heavy and the fore quarters light and the neck low, the operation had better be deferred until the fore parts are more fully developed.
The writer has successfully castrated horses in almost every month in the year. Work done in January, with no more than ordinary care and stabling, gave good satisfaction. Work done during the hot weather of August was equally successful. Yet we think the spring and early summer months the most favorable season for the operation. While on the other hand we think the most unfavorable time to be in the fall after the hot sun of an unusually-dry summer has converted the pools of stagnant water into beds of muck - regular cess-pools of filth and disease - and then a copious rainfall drenches the parched earth, the pools become filled with fresh, cool, but nevertheless infectious water, inviting to stock but disease-producing withal. The once harmless dead and dry vegetation, now moistened by the rain, begins to decay, and the atmosphere becomes rife with miasma from the putrefying mass.
It is a well-known fact that in the human family typhoid and malarial fevers are more prevalent at certain seasons and during some years than at others. We also know that a tendency to gangrenous and septicemic complications makes the treatment of wounds more difficult at certain times than at others. And it is also well known by men who have followed castrating for a number of years that, without any apparent cause, some seasons the colts fail to do well. With these undeniable facts staring us in the face, I have set about to find the cause, and I have observed that a season of showers interspersed with hot, sultry sunshine at any time of the year is unfavorable to the healing of wounds from any cause, and when the poisonous efluvia from decaying vegetation is added, the danger is tenfold worse.
The condition of the animal as regards health is important. No animal should be castrated when it is affected with disease. The most prevalent disease among colts during the castrating season is strangles or colt distemper. He who castrates a colt with distemper invites trouble; and he generally gets it. Neither should it be done when a colt is very thin in flesh.
If the bowels are not loose from running on grass the colt should have soft feed for a few days previous to the operation, and nothing for six hours proceeding it. With plenty of assist ance at hand, cast and tie him securely, roll him partly on his back and have an assistant to hold the hock of the uppermost leg out of the way. Examine for the testicles and take the one first that seems hardest to get. Grasp the testicle with the left hand and with a sharp knife cut half an inch from and parallel with the center line of the scrotum. Cut the coverings carefully until the testicle comes out, but do not cut the testicle. Take care to make the incision in the scrotum of good length and well forward to prevent closing too soon. It is always best to expose both testicles before removing the first. There are different methods of preventing hemorrhage, each of which has been successful when properly manipulated. The old method of clamping has been used successfully for years. The testicle should be drawn down moderately and the clamps placed well up on the cord and closed with care to have sufficient pressure on the artery to stop the blood. When both sides have been thus secured the cords should be severed with the knife two or three inches below the clamp.
Another method of securing the cord is by ligature. In this way of operating, a strong, waxed linen thread is used to secure the artery instead of the clamps.
But when properly used we consider the ecraseur the most humane treatment with which to secure the artery, as well as the most likely to be attended with success. But with this, as with the other methods, the proper way to learn to use it is from a successful operator m person and not from printed instructions; hence we will only give a few hints in regard to its use which may be of value even to those who have had some experience with the instrument.
In the first place we have never seen a new ecraseur that did not have the inside of the chain, and sometimes the edges of the slot too sharp; it cuts clean without crushing, and bleed ing ensues. The remedy is to dull the edges with a small file.
The instrument must be kept clean; clots of blood must not be allowed to remain between the links of the chain. Wash in clean water after each operation and if convenient use carbolic acid in the water.
In the operation turn the cord around until the artery is next the slot; draw down the edges of the last covering of the testicles in the chain around the cord, then draw the chain up carefully until it crushes the artery but does not cut it; now slack the chain and slide it half an inch toward the testicle, then draw it up again until the cord is cut through. This double crushing makes the cord doubly secure and bleeding is impossible.
After either mode of operating a little carbolized sweet oil may be poured into each side of the scrotum and the animal released.
We have not written to such length expecting to teach men to operate, but to enable stockowners to guard against unscrupulous men with more gall than knowledge of the business, who, every spring, "go about as a roaring lion seeking whom they may devour." They castrate in all kinds of weather; they operate alike on sick and well, telling the owner that it will do a colt with distemper good to bleed him a little; it will give him a new start." And it generally does it on his last journey.
Employ only some one whom you know; and whether he be a graduated veterinarian or only a professional castrator, let him be a man of experience and also with a reputation for honesty and square dealing.
Sometimes it happens that an animal will bleed after the operation. A small stream of dark blood will generally soon stop itself, being from veins. But if the stream is large and bright red it is from the artery and should be stopped. The best plan is to cast the animal and tie the artery; but, if not possible, till the scrotum with cotton saturated with tincture of iron, if you have it, or roll it in a mixture of salt and soot and, when the scrotum is full of cotton, put in a stitch or two to keep it there till twenty-four to forty-eight hours after when the stitches should be cut and the cotton left to work out itself. A stream of cold water allowed to fall a distance of two or three feet upon the animal's loins will often act like a charm and might be used in connection with the cotton.
After a colt has been castrated he must be allowed plenty of exercise and be made to take it if he acts stiff. If the swelling increases bathe the scrotum with hot water; inject the cuts with turpentine, one part, and sweet oil or clean lard, two parts, mixed; then move him around slowly at first, but increasing to a lively walk as he warms up. As soon as healthy pus begins to flow the swelling generally goes down.
This is a condition in which the cord, from undue irritation, grows to an unusual size and protrudes from the wound in the scrotum in the shape of a tumor. The only remedy for it is to cast the animal and remove the growth. But as the operation requires more than ordinary skill it is not necessary to describe it.