Ovariectomies a Management Option for Mare Owners

The erratic behavior exhibited by some mares, especially during heat cycles, has long been a topic of discussion among equestrians. These erratic behaviors, in addition to other concerns such as population control, are just two of the reasons ovariectomies are being touted by The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. According to Dr. José R. Castro, ACVS Diplomate and equine surgeon with the UTCVM, “An ovariectomy refers to the removal of the ovaries.” The procedure is recommended for mares, ideally two to five years, which do not have a reproductive value.

Dr. Castro relates the advantages of the procedure, “It is completed while standing thus the use of general anesthesia is avoided. There is minimal hospitalization required, typically one to two days. The cost of the surgery, on average about $2,000 – $2,500, pays for itself in one year considering that the owner no longer has to pay for other medical heat management, show cancellations, etc. It is permanent and because it is a well established procedure there are minimal complications associated with it.” For mare owners considering the procedure Dr. Castro recommends thinking about, “the loss of the mare’s reproductive value” and cautions mare owners to be aware that there are “no scientific studies to show if there are any long term complications.”

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If a mare owner should decide to proceed with the surgery they are advised to fast their mare 24 – 48 hours prior. Mares may return to their normal diet post-surgery. The procedure itself takes approximately 2 to 2.5 hours and is performed standing under heavy sedation and with local anesthesia.

Dr. Castro describes the procedure as follows: “The surgery is performed laparoscopically with three small incisions made in the flank to place the camera and instruments. The left ovary is seen, grasped, and the neurovascular bundle is infiltrated with local anthestetic. The ovary is then separated and removed from the body extending the incisions of two portals. The veterinarian performing the procedure will then assess for any hemorrhaging. Finally, the incisions are closed and the procedure is repeated on the opposite flank.

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Antibiotics and analgesics are maintained for several days and sutures are removed in two weeks.” Post operatively, mares typically return to work in 45 – 60 days. Risks associated with the surgery including hemorrhaging, peritonitis, and infections at the surgical sites.

For more information about ovariectomies Dr. Castro can be reached at (865) 974-5701 or at jcastro1@utk.edu.

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