Did you know that rectal tears are the most dangerous sequelae of a rectal examination?
While rectal examinations are a very routine part of our equine practice, we take the rectal exam very seriously and are extremely careful throughout the duration. The reason we are concerned about it is that a rectal exam that creates a rectal tear can lead to death. Rectal tears differ from rectovaginal tears in that a rectal tear (generally at the juncture of the rectum and small colon) can lead to fecal contamination of the abdomen and death via septic peritonitis; while a rectovaginal tear describes disruption of the perineal tissue between the rectum and vagina (typically the result of a foaling accident). Since horses are one of the most sensitive animals to septic peritonitis, finding blood on a rectal sleeve at the conclusion of any rectal palpation strikes fear in the heart of even the most seasoned practitioner. However, there are many variables that can contribute to the potential of a torn rectum, such as: young, fractious mare, dehydration, practitioner inexperience, straining, and sometimes for no apparent reason at all. Don’t be surprised if during the course of a rectal examination, we suggest sedation or an antispasmodic (Buscopan®). We want the best possible outcome for your horse.