Uterine prolapse

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SA 5172

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Uterine prolapse is where the uterus everts through the cervix and vagina, and passes out of the abdominal cavity. It can happen in many species but is most common in cows. Milk fever, large calves, poor body condition and dystocia (calving difficulty), however minor, may be contributing factors.

A uterine prolapse usually happens after the cow has calved, within an hour or two but sometimes up to a week after calving. The cervix is open and the uterus lacks tone, allowing it to be pushed out of the body cavity. The condition is very distinctive as the empty uterus hangs down and may reach the level of the hocks.

It rapidly becomes swollen as normal venous flows from the uterine tissue are reduced - it is also very prone to damage and contamination. The uterus can be cut or torn, or even trodden onĀ 

The uterus should be replaced by a vet as quickly as possible - if not, the tissue may die and become necrotic, or blood vessels associated with the uterus may become damaged, leading to shock, bleeding or even death. For the same reason any cow with a prolapse should be confined to a small area, or yard. This will reduce the chances of the blood vessels tearing when rounding her up.

The prolapsed uterus is replaced by pushing the uterus back into its normal position. This can sometimes take up to 45 minutes of blood, sweat and tears!! The uterus and surrounding area is cleaned before replacing, and an epidural is usually administered to help ease the process. If the cow is down, a frog legged position with the cow's legs stretched out behind helps with replacing the uterus. If the cow is standing, she may need to be sedated and put into this position to facilitate replacement. Any loose placenta is removed from the uterus prior to replacementĀ 

After replacement, antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory are usually given. If the cow has an underlying problem such as milk fever, this is also corrected. An injection of Oxytocin helps the uterus to contract down to its normal size.

If the prolapse can be replaced, and the damage is not too severe, the cow should go on to breed normally.