Two Down at Once

D. E. Larsen, DVM

The appointment said 1:30. I looked at my pocket watch, it said 1:30. I stood in the driveway, wondering what to do now. At least I wasn’t far from the clinic.

Finally, Paul comes out of the house and down the walkway to my truck.

“Sorry for the hold-up,” Paul says as he extends his hand. “Sue was supposed to be here by now. It is her horse, but I guess I can give you a hand, up until there is blood. I don’t do blood.”

Paul is a big guy, well over six feet tall and well-muscled. He stands and watches as I get my things together. Horse castrations were basic surgery,  but I wouldn’t say I liked the procedure. I guess I was just not a horse vet. A lot of guys did the procedure with the horse standing. But with most owners lacking adequate facilities, I was reluctant to do standing castrations. That, and the fact that I watched a classmate lacerate his arm with a scalpel doing a standing castration in school.  I found that a good dose of Pentathol works wonders. It laid them down comfortably, and recovery was fast enough and smooth for the most part.

“Where is the horse?” I ask.

“He is out in the pasture. Sue thought that would be the best place to do this,” Paul said. “He is not a problem to handle. Sue said, you were going to sedate him.”

“Yes, I give an anesthetic, lay them on the ground to do the surgery. They recover without much of a problem.”

“Are you going to be okay if I leave after you get him on the ground?” Paul asked.

“Yes, I will be fine. I tie a leg up, and the surgery if relatively rapid.”

“I would do more, but blood is just one of those things I can’t handle,” Paul said with some anxiety in his voice.

“Well, there is not much with this, and once we get him on the ground, you can just walk away,” I said.

I handed Paul a few things to carry and stood, waiting for him to lead the way to the pasture. I was hoping that he was correct about the horse is no problem to catch. Often the owner has that story, and when the vet arrives, the head goes up, and there is no catching him.

There was no problem today. I picked a nice level spot in the pasture and sat my things down. Paul brought Pepper over with a lead on his halter, and we were set to go.

Pepper was a nice looking young horse, probably less than two years old. He was a gray roan. That probably lead to his name.

I soothed Pepper a little. I had drawn up three grams of Pentathol into a 60 cc syringe. I stood at Pepper’s left shoulder, and Paul was standing at my shoulder, holding the lead. Pepper was as calm as one could expect. I held off the jugular vein with my left hand, palpated it with the back of my right hand, and then slipped the needle into the vein. I glanced at Paul, and he was doing fine. I drew back on the syringe to ensure I was in the vein. A small flashback of blood came into the syringe. It looked like an upside-down reddish mushroom. With everything in place, I started the injection. Then I glanced back a Paul.

There he was, flat out on the ground behind me. That small mushroom of blood in the syringe was all it took. He was out like a light. At least he had some soft ground to land on. My problem now was I had started the injection and couldn’t stop midstream. I gathered the lead rope in my left hand and delivered a full two gram into the vein.

I was able to guide Pepper’s fall back and to his right side so he would end up well away from Paul. The with Pepper on the ground, I slowly gave the other gram of Pentathol to get him well under anesthesia.

With Pepper under control, I went over to check Paul. He was starting to come around when I got down beside him. I helped him sit up, and then after a moment, I helped him onto his feet.

“I’m sorry, Doc,” Paul said. “It doesn’t take much blood to do me in, I guess. Are you going to be alright here? I think I am going back to the house.”

With Paul under control and gone, I put a sideline on Pepper and took a wrap on his left fetlock. Then I pulled that foot forward and up, securing it out of the way. Then I prepped the scrotum with Betadine Scrub and sprayed it with Betadine.

Everything was set for surgery now. I incised the scrotum over each testicle, extending the incision into the testicle, so the tunic was also incised. Then, hooking my finger in the pocket formed by the everted tunics, I pulled both testicles, and their tunics, out of the scrotum.  This freed all the tunic attachments. 

Then I clamped an Oschner forceps across the cord and removed the testicle and tunic with the emasculator. I held a firm grip on the emasculator for a moment to ensure a good tissue crush. I sprayed the cord with an antibiotic and released the forceps. This allowed the cord to retract into the scrotum. The next testicle was removed the same manner. Then with scissors, I removed the bottom of the scrotum between the two incisions. I stretched the opening to ensure adequate drainage and sprayed the area with an antibiotic spray. I sprayed a large area with fly spray, including the tail.

With everything done, I picked up everything and moved out of the way. I removed the sideline and grabbed the lead rope. While I was waiting for Pepper to recover, I gave him a booster to his tetanus vaccination. And since Sue was usually at work during office hours, I gave him a good dose of Dual Pen. I didn’t use antibiotics following surgery if there were no problems, I just thought this might save me a return trip.

It was not long, and Pepper opened his eyes, then with one motion, he righted himself to rest on his sternum. Then he stood up, I needed to steady him a bit, but he was good to go in no time at all. I removed the lead road and gathered my stuff, putting almost everything into the now-empty bucket.

After getting everything put away in the truck, I glanced out to the pasture. Pepper was grazing, almost as nothing happened. I went to the front door and knocked. Paul was a little slow to open the door but looked okay when he did.

“I was just checking to make sure you were okay,” I said.

“I am okay, Doc,” Paul said. “I will have Sue stop by your office to pay the bill and get any instructions.”

“Good enough, you take care of yourself,” I said. “Pepper is up and eating. You don’t need to worry about him, Sue will check him when she gets home.”

Photo by Jan Canty on Unsplash.

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

3 thoughts on “Two Down at Once

  1. I love the detail in your stories when you do surgeries. Don’t understand it all, but it’s fascinating. The humor in this one was great what with the big, burley guy going flat out from the sight of a little blood. Have you watched the Doc Martin series on PBS? I think you’d get a kick out of it. It might be on Netflix now, but haven’t looked for it……..


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