Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Oxytocin Injection

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Oxytocin is a reproductive peptide hormone produced by the hypothalamus in the brain. It is stored and released by the pituitary gland.

The most important uses of oxytocin in equine veterinary medicine are in mares. It causes uterine contraction for the treatment of a retained placenta and the emptying of uterine fluid accumulations, which is helpful for post-breeding uterine inflammation.

Oxytocin has also been found effective at keeping mares out of heat for prolonged periods. It is thought to block the uterine lining’s release of the prostaglandin that breaks the corpus luteum. Normally, the corpus luteum is eliminated by prostaglandin, allowing a mare to return to estrus. Oxytocin causes the corpus luteum to persist, which maintains elevated progesterone concentrations and keeps a mare out of heat.

Oxytocin is also used in cases of foal rejection. There are veterinary protocols for the use of oxytocin and prostaglandin to encourage mothering behavior in mares that have rejected their foals.

Oxytocin has a variety of other uses as well. It can be a useful treatment in some cases of choke (esophageal obstruction).

Your vet may use or dispense im injections of oxytocin to you as part of a treatment plan for any of these conditions.

Consider Potential Side Effects & Complications

Uterine cramping is a common side effect of oxytocin administration. It usually occurs shortly after administration and will appear as colic signs such as pawing, stretching, kicking at belly, and/or lying down.

Consider Reasons Not To Use This Treatment

Oxytocin should not be given to mares during labor, especially during dystocia (difficult birthing) as it may worsen cramping and result in injury.

Is It working? Timeframe for effect

Within minutes of intravenous administration of oxytocin, mares that have foaled will show signs of milk letdown and uterine contraction. They will also show signs of uterine cramping, which are difficult to distinguish from signs of abdominal pain that result from other causes.

Questions To Ask My Vet

  • How can I distinguish between the anticipated side effects & colic?

Helpful terms & topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

RELATED REFERENCES

Parkinson KC, Vanderwall Rigas J, Sweat L Effect of chronic administration of oxytocin on corpus luteum function in cycling mares. Proceedings, Western Section, American Society of Animal Science Vol. 66, 2015.

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