Retained Placenta In Horses

Retained Placenta in Horses: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


Have you ever wondered about the complications that horses can experience during and after pregnancy? One such complication is a retained placenta, which can have serious consequences if not properly addressed. In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for retained placenta in horses.


Retained placenta, also known as retained fetal membranes or retained afterbirth, occurs when the placenta fails to detach and is not expelled naturally within a few hours after foaling. Several factors can contribute to this condition:

1. Post-Foaling Stress: Horses that experience traumatic or difficult deliveries, such as dystocia or prolonged labor, are more prone to retained placenta.

2. Hormonal Imbalance: An imbalance or deficiency in certain hormones, particularly oxytocin, can interfere with the normal detachment of the placenta.

3. Uterine Inertia: Weak contractions of the uterus can hinder the expulsion of the placenta, often seen in older or debilitated mares.

4. Placental Abnormalities: Structural abnormalities in the placenta, such as thickened or calcified membranes, can impede its separation from the uterus.


Identifying a retained placenta in horses can be challenging, as the condition does not always present obvious external signs. However, there are some key symptoms to be aware of:

1. Delayed Delivery of the Placenta: In normal circumstances, the placenta should be expelled within three hours of foaling. Any delay beyond this timeframe is cause for concern.

2. Foul Smell: A retained placenta can emit a distinctive odor due to the decomposition of fetal tissues, which is often characterized as foul or putrid.

3. Reluctance to Eat or Drink: Horses with retained placenta may exhibit a decreased appetite and thirst, which could be indicative of an underlying infection or systemic inflammation.

4. Abnormal Behavior: Some mares may display signs of discomfort, restlessness, or depression, reflecting their distress from the retained placenta.


It is crucial to address a retained placenta promptly to minimize the risk of complications, such as uterine infection or septicemia. The following treatment options may be employed in managing this condition:

1. Manual Removal: In certain cases, a veterinarian may manually remove the retained placenta, using sterile techniques to prevent further infection. This procedure should only be performed by a trained professional to avoid injury to the mare’s uterus.

2. Pharmacological Intervention: Medications, such as oxytocin or prostaglandins, may be administered to stimulate uterine contractions and facilitate the detachment of the placenta. These drugs must be used under veterinary supervision to ensure the correct dosage and timing.

3. Supportive Care: While waiting for the placenta to be expelled naturally or with intervention, the mare should receive supportive care, including proper nutrition, ample clean water, and a clean and comfortable environment.

4. Antibiotics: To prevent or treat uterine infections that can result from a retained placenta, antibiotics may be prescribed. It is crucial to follow the veterinarian’s instructions regarding the duration and dosage of the antibiotics.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1: How long should I wait before seeking veterinary assistance for a retained placenta in my horse?

It is recommended to contact your veterinarian if the placenta has not been expelled within three hours of foaling. Early intervention can prevent potential complications and ensure the mare’s health and well-being.

Q2: Can a retained placenta cause infertility in mares?

While a single incident of retained placenta does not typically cause infertility, recurrent cases may have a detrimental impact on a mare’s reproductive health. Regular veterinary monitoring and appropriate management can help mitigate this risk.

Q3: Is there any way to prevent retained placenta in horses?

While it is not always possible to prevent retained placenta, there are certain measures you can take to minimize the risk. These include proper nutrition, regular exercise, regular veterinary check-ups, and avoiding stressful conditions during pregnancy and foaling.

Final Thoughts:

Retained placenta in horses is a concerning condition that requires timely intervention for successful management. It is essential to be vigilant for signs of delayed placental expulsion and seek veterinary assistance promptly. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for this condition, horse owners can play an active role in ensuring their mare’s reproductive health and overall well-being. Remember, a healthy mare means a healthy foal!

Leave a Comment