Penile and preputial tumours in the horse: Literature review and proposal of a standardised approach




Penile and preputial tumours are not uncommon in the horse, but can cause discomfort and lead to serious complications. Several types of tumour of the male external genitalia have been described. The most common type is the squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which is found mainly in older horses. Reports of a breed predilection for penile tumour formation are equivocal, but castration, coat colour, poor hygiene and various infectious agents have all been suggested to predispose to the development of some types of tumour (e.g. SCC, papilloma and melanoma).

Careful assessment of the primary tumour is an important first step in the design of an optimal treatment protocol. Invasiveness, differentiation grade, tumour size and presence of metastases are all relevant to the decision to pursue additional diagnostic procedures or specific treatment options.

To date, no standard protocol has been reported for the approach to penile tumours in the horse and treatments range from minimally invasive therapies (e.g. topical use of 5-fluorouracil) to radical surgical interventions (e.g. en bloc penile and preputial resection with penile retroversion). Completeness of removal of the neoplasm and therefore risk of recurrence is highly dependant on the type of therapy chosen. However, the size and histopathological features of the primary tumour are also important factors with respect to the likelihood of recurrence.

This review describes the most common penile and preputial neoplasms in the horse, and outlines a standard protocol aimed at arriving at a specific diagnosis and tailoring the therapeutic approach accordingly.