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


Vaginal Tear, Vulvar Wound


Small wounds to a mare's vulva are very common, especially during foaling. In fact, most mares have some degree of swelling and bruising of the vulva after delivery. Even small vulvar wounds often swell severely and look terrible in the early stages after wounding. This is because of the very loose, stretchy tissue and ample blood supply in this area. Once the swelling subsides, most of these injuries heal fast and cause minimal to no long-term problems.

Breeding injuries also rarely occur, and kick wounds are also relatively common in this area. Again, most of these heal well on their own.

Severe and disfiguring injuries to the vulva and vagina can also occur during foaling and can have serious long-term consequences to fertility and health. Major disfiguring wounds to the vagina (especially those where the tissue between vagina and rectum is torn) usually occur during foaling. A foal's foot pushes through the vaginal wall and rectal wall into the rectum (creating a recto-vaginal fistula). As the foal is pushed out, it may split the dividing tissue as it goes, resulting in one common opening for rectum and vagina. Very rarely, severe foaling and breeding wounds penetrate the abdominal cavity, leading to life-threatening infection.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you wish to have the best functional and cosmetic outcome, no matter the cost.
    • If you are concerned by the size and severity of the wound.
    • If the wound occurred within the last 24 hours.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
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your role


What To Do

For any vulvar wounds, a photo can be very helpful to a vet in determining whether or not an assessment is needed. Take one and send it to your vet Most vulvar wounds heal very well without any treatment. While gentle cleaning never hurts, it may not be needed.

We recommend that every mare, newborn and placenta be examined by a vet. Vets evaluate this area as part of that exam. Even if this is not done, it is important to call your vet to discuss more severe-appearing injuries here as soon as you discover them. If a vaginal wound involves a flap, displaced tissue or causes communication between vagina and rectum, it will probably need surgical repair. That said, in most cases, severe wounds require a delay of 6-8 weeks for repair to be performed. This delay allows swelling, infection and inflammation to subside.

your vet's role

Your vet may not need to treat minor vulvar wounds, but they typically evaluate them at the post-foaling exam. For severe wounds, they may suggest referral to a surgical facility for later repair of recto-vaginal wounds. The surgery can be relatively complicated. In the meantime, they may prescribe antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and stool softeners to reduce swelling and irritation from manure.

For non-foaling wounds: Your vet will determine whether or not there is a need for repair. They may choose to do it immediately or put it off to allow swelling to subside.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Does the mare appear normal otherwise?
  • How long ago did this happen?
  • How bad does the injury appear?
  • Is this a foaling related injury?
  • When do you think the mare foaled?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Can you send a photo?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP