Last Updated on June 1, 2022
Is the equine uterus sterile? Why do mares get uterine infections? What is endometriosis? Let’s find out everything you need to know about uterine infections in horses!
What Is The Uterus In A Horse?
The uterus is an organ only found in the female horse and is part of the reproductive tract. It is inside the uterus that conception occurs, leading to the formation of an embryo. If the pregnancy is successful, this will develop into a fetus and the foal will be born 11 months later.
When the mare is not pregnant, the uterus is relatively small in size. It consists of a body, around 25cm in length, and two horns that are also around 25cm long. The body of the uterus connects to the cervix, leading to the outside world via the vulva.
At the other end of the uterus, the two horns are attached to the ovaries, the site of egg formation. The ovaries also produce hormones that control the reproductive cycle in mares.
Is The Equine Uterus Sterile?
In a normal, healthy mare, the uterus of a horse is a sterile environment. This means that it is completely free of bacteria. It is vital that the mare can maintain a sterile uterus in order to enable her to reproduce successfully.
Is The Equine Uterus Sterile? If the uterus becomes contaminated by bacteria, these will quickly reproduce and cause inflammation and irritation of the delicate uterine lining. This can cause significant health problems for the mare, and if she is pregnant it is also likely that she will lose the foal.
Luckily, the mare has several mechanisms in place that help to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination of the uterus occurring. Firstly, the lips of the vulva form a seal, preventing dirt and debris from entering the vagina and traveling up to the uterus. Next, there is a second seal inside the vagina, and finally, the cervix also forms a barrier against the outside world.
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What Are The Causes Of Uterine Infections In Horses?
Most uterine infections in horses occur as a result of reproductive activity, whether through natural mating or controlled artificial insemination. The reasons for this are twofold – firstly, the mating procedure means that sperm needs to enter the uterus, leading to the potential for bacterial contamination.
During the fertile period, the protective seals also become more relaxed, increasing the chance of contaminated material entering the uterus.
The other high-risk period for uterine infections in mares is immediately after foaling. When a mare gives birth, the uterus should contract and expel any unwanted material. If a tiny fragment is left behind, this will cause a uterine infection.
Some mares are at a higher risk of uterine infection than others, due to poor anatomical conformation. This is commonly seen in older mares, where the vulval seal and vaginal seals are no longer effective. This leads to urine pooling in the vagina, and fecal contamination of the vestibule.
What Are The Signs Of Uterine Infection In Horses?
If a mare is suffering from a uterine infection, there are some clear clinical signs that may be observed. Discharge may be seen from the vulva – this can be in small or large amounts and may be clear or purulent.
However, vaginal discharge is not seen in all cases, as some uterine infections are closed. This means that the bacteria are trapped inside the uterus, leading to a build-up of contaminated material. This is much more dangerous for the mare than an open infection, where contaminated material can drain away freely.
Severe uterine infections can lead to septicemia, as the levels of toxins become so high that a systemic infection develops. The mare will become dull, inappetent, and have a very high fever. Uterine infectious of this level of severity normally require intensive treatment in an equine hospital.
Uterine infections also disrupt the reproductive cycle of the mare, so in a mild case, the only clinical sign may be that she is cycling abnormally or fails to become pregnant. Pre-breeding uterine swabs can help to assess the health of the uterus before mating or insemination.
Good reproductive hygiene is essential to prevent uterine infections in horses. Some horses can be infected with diseases that can be spread by venereal transmission, and pre-breeding tests are vital to rule these out. When artificial insemination is used instead of natural mating, the technician must follow strict hygiene protocols to avoid the risk of uterine infection.
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Summary – Is The Equine Uterus Sterile?
So, as we have learned, the equine uterus is a closed, sterile environment, free from bacteria. It is protected by a series of three seals that prevent dirt and debris from entering the uterus. If bacteria do enter the uterus, the mare is at risk of a serious uterine infection.
We’d love to hear your thought on is the equine uterus sterile! Do you have a mare that often suffers from uterine problems? Or perhaps you’ve got some questions about how to get your mare in foal? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
What Type Of Uterus Do Horses Have?
The uterus of a horse is a T-shaped organ, consisting of the body of the uterus and two uterine horns. The end of the body finishes at the cervix, and at the end of each horn are the ovaries.
Are Mares Sterile?
It is very unusual for mares to be neutered, and most mares are able to reproduce. This means that mares are not sterile, unless they have a medical problem that prevents them from reproducing.
Can A Female Horse Get Pregnant?
A female horse can get pregnant if she is mated by a fertile male horse. Most mares are not kept with fertile male horses, also known as stallions, in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies. In the wild, a stallion would have a group of female horses and each would become pregnant every year.
Are Horses Infertile?
Most male horses are neutered, meaning that they are infertile. A neutered male horse is called a gelding. Female horses are not routinely neutered unless it is for medical reasons, so female horses, or mares, are not infertile.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE