Retained Fetal Membranes in Mares: Pros and Cons of Manual Removal

A recent study showed that controlled manual removal of retained fetal membranes in mares had a relatively low risk for both normal foaling and high-risk mares. But this technique isn’t without complications.
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retained fetal membranes in mares
Most mares naturally and uneventfully pass their fetal membranes shortly after foaling. If the tissues don’t pass within three hours, however, they’re considered “retained” and can cause potentially deadly side side effects. | Photo: iStock

Most mares naturally and uneventfully pass their fetal membranes (the placenta) shortly after foaling. If the tissues don’t pass within three hours, however, they’re considered “retained.” These retained fetal membranes in mares can cause serious side effects such as metritis (inflammation of the uterine wall), sepsis (infection), and laminitis.

Veterinarians use a variety of techniques to remove retained membranes in mares; one that can be controversial is manual removal. Chelsie Burden, DVM, Dipl. ACT, of Goulburn Valley Equine Hospital, in Victoria, Australia, described how to perform this procedure safely and the pros and cons of its use during the 2018 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 1-5 in San Francisco, California.

“Retained fetal membranes (RFMs) represent one of the more common postpartum problems in mares,” she said. “While the overall incidence is low (2-10.6%), the consequences, if left unattended, can be severe

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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