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THE BEHA GUIDE TO CHOOSING A REPUTABLE SHEATH CLEANER

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The sheath is an area of the horse that even the most experienced equestrians are unfamiliar with.  Lack of knowledge can make it tricky for you to know if your sheath cleaner is reputable or not.   This guide sets out Good        and Bad        practice.    Working together with vets and horse owners, BEHA is leading industry reforms to safeguard your horses’ health and welfare.

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  • Practises good biosecurity & hygiene. Each horse has a:

New sponge / cloth

New set of gloves

Single use syringe

Single use tail bandage (Mares)

Fresh / clean water

  • Uses a gentle water-based lube only so as not to cause irritation or alter the flora balance of the sheath.

  • No other products should be used inside the sheath.

  • Flushes thoroughly after using water ONLY.​

 A REPUTABLE SHEATH CLEANER

Takes time before starting treatment to ask questions about your horses’ sheath health & hygiene history and any behavioural changes you may have observed.

​They will ensure your horse is comfortable and relaxed about being touched in that area before starting treatment.

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BEHA HYGIENISTS ARE

  • Trained in ‘Equine Reproductive Organ Health’ by Prof Derek Knottenbelt OBE, BVM&S, DVM&S, DipECEIM, MRCVS.

  • Attend regular CPD training.

  • Fully Insured

  • Professional, Knowledgeable & Experienced Equestrians.

  • Registered & Reputable Businesses.

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£25 - £30  PRICE CAN BE AN INDICATOR 

  • A reputable sheath cleaner provides excellent value for money. Hygienists are often the first to pick up on heath abnormalities, with an average 1 in 10 horses being referred to vet.

  • They are professional businesses with associated operating costs. They are in high demand and their price is a reflection of their experience, training and professional service you should expect.

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BELOW £25  PRICE CAN BE AN INDICATOR 

  • Are they cutting costs by reusing items such as gloves and sponges? Or not using any at all?

  • Are they insured?

  • A less reputable sheath cleaner may try to gain work by enticing yards with cheap group deals.

  • A less reputable sheath cleaner may cost you more if things go wrong. For example, as a result of poor hygiene (reusing gloves / sponges), by using unsafe sheath products or by working uninsured.

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BEWARE OF SHEATH CLEANERS WHO PUT YOUR HORSES HEALTH AT RISK OF CROSS CONTAMINATION, VIRUSES, VENEREAL DISEASES AND INFECTIONS BY:

  • ​Using the same gloves between horses.

  • Not using gloves.

  • Using the same sponge between horses.

  • Not changing water between horses.

  • Allowing your horse to use a distraction lick that they provide, used by other horses on other yards. THINK Strangles & viruses!

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UNSAFE SHEATH PRODUCTS

  • Chemicals such as IODINE & HIBISCRUB should not be used for cleaning or rinsing. They are disinfectants and will destroy the microbiome and flora within the sheath.

  • Check product ingredients and avoid those containing CHLORHEXIDINE, an antiseptic also found in some water-based lubes.

  • A sterile sheath is unhealthy, prone to infections and other complications.

  • OILS  leave a tacky residue that sweat, dead skin and smegma sticks to, making your horse more dirty. Water alone won’t wash it off. Washing with soap will alter the flora balance of the sheath.

  • Many shop bought sheath cleaning products are oil based and some even contain tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is an antiseptic which can alter the bacterial and fungal (flora) balance of the sheath.

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  • AQUEOUS CREAM should NEVER be applied to the penis or inside the sheath. It contains sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) which can cause skin irritation such as burning, stinging and itching.

  • The penis self lubricates by secreting smegma. Moisturising it with a cream is dangerous and unnecessary.  

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VETERINARY SURGEONS ACT 1966   (19. Treatment of animals by unqualified persons)

  • Only veterinary surgeons may legally diagnose, prescribe, advise on the basis of a diagnosis.

  • A reputable sheath cleaner will provide you with a report of any health abnormalities found for you to discuss with your vet.  

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THE RISKS OF FOLLOWING UNQUALFIED ADVICE

  • A sheath cleaner who diagnoses a condition and gives treatment advice is NOT saving you money by excluding your vet.

  • As an unqualified person they are breaking the law and therefore not insured. That means you’ll have no protection to claim against their insurance if things go wrong. 

  • Always speak to your vet if you are informed of any abnormalities.

  • Owner distressed about a condition that may not even exist.

  • Unnecessary / dangerous treatment advice given.

  • Horse doesn’t receive the appropriate veterinary treatment they may need.

  • Unable to claim against the sheath cleaners insurance if things go wrong.

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        Example:  THRUSH

  • Beware of anyone who is not a vet who diagnoses Thrush of the sheath and who recommends yogurt inside the sheath as a DIY home treatment.

  • Thrush of the sheath is NOT common. Only a vet can diagnose if your horse does in fact have an infection, and if so, if it’s bacterial, fungal or underlying pathology (they can look similar).

  • Typically your vet will take a swab to culture should they suspect an infection in order to determine the type.

​When a horse gets hot, they sweat, the smegma becomes sticky and smells more pungent. You may even notice smegma on their hind legs or around their navel. This is completely normal and in the majority of cases, unlikely to be thrush / bacterial infection.

 

If your horse does however have a infection, yogurt applied inside the sheath could cause your horse serious harm by providing an environment for bad bacteria to thrive.

 

If your horse has another underlying pathology, this could go undiagnosed. A reputable sheath cleaner will ALWAYS refer you to your vet if they have any concerns.

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