What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Retained Placenta, More Than 3 Hours after Foaling


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).

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
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your role


What To Do

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.

What Not To Do

Do not attempt to manually remove the placenta unless you cannot get veterinary help. Do this under veterinary guidance only.

your vet's role

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.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How is the mare's attitude and appetite?
  • Can you give the mare a shot of oxytocin?
  • When was the foal born?
  • Does the foal seem normal to you?
  • Do you notice digital pulses in the feet?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • What is the horse's rectal temperature?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP