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Equine Health Resource

Retained Placenta, More Than 3 Hours after Foaling

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

    Mares should deliver their fetal membranes no more than 3 hours after foaling. Most deliver them within 10 minutes to 1 hour.

    If membranes (in whole or in part) are retained in the mare’s uterus longer than 3 hours, there is a danger of rapid bacterial growth leading to a life-threatening uterine infection. The most dangerous additional consequence of this infection is laminitis (founder).


    Unlike cattle, mares are very sensitive to a retained placenta. Call your vet immediately because it is unwise to try to manually remove a placenta yourself, even if a portion of it is hanging out of the vagina. Monitor your mare carefully after placenta removal, especially watching for stiffness in movement or reluctance to walk. Depression or loss of appetite could be a sign of a uterine infection, which requires emergency treatment by a vet.


    Vets typically begin by assessing the mare’s overall health. There are a variety of methods used to remove a retained placenta. The important principles include minimal trauma to the mare’s reproductive tract, ensuring that the removed placenta is complete, treatment of infection if present, follow up to ensure there are no problems over the next few days.

    Removal usually requires a combination of treatment with drugs and mechanical manipulation. In rare cases, a vet may choose to leave a placenta in place as the attachments continue to weaken over time.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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