Metritis: A post Calving infection

 

What is Metritis ?

Metritis is a uterine infection that causes generalised, potentially life-threatening illness. Predisposing factors to the development of metritis include difficult calving with physical damage/trauma or soiling to the cow’s reproductive tract, retained foetal membranes or down cow after calving. The infection is usually seen in the early post-calving period.

 

What does it look like ?

Affected cows are usually dull, off their food and have a drop in milk yield. The uterus feels enlarged and a fetid, watery to brown-red vaginal discharge is present. Many animals have a fever (temperature of 39.5 or above) but in some the temperature might be below normal. In some severe, life-threatening cases, cows will be down, dehydrated and show signs of toxic shock (weak pulses, poor gum colour, diarrhoea, low body temperature). Animals in toxic shock may die quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prevention.

Ensure proper hygiene when assisting calvings (wash hands in dilute betadine or other antiseptic solution and remove faeces from vulva with clean water). All assisted calvings should receive some antibiotics (Alamycin LA 300 for instance), anti-inflammatories (Metacam or Tolfejec) and Oxytocin. Good transition diets and milk fever prevention is also important. If the cow has retained foetal membranes hanging from the vulva, either remove them or pull tight and cut them as close to the vulva as possible to avoid bacteria tracking into the uterus.

 

Prognosis and Treatment: Treat early for best outcome !

Less severe cases of metritis usually respond to injectable broad-spectrum antibiotics +/- anti-inflammatory and other supportive treatment (food, warmth, water, …). Antibiotics of choice include Ceftiofur (Excenel) or broad-spectrum penicillins or Oxytetracyclins (Alamycin LA). Calcium, either oral or intravenously, can be given to affected cows as they are often hypocalcemic (low blood calcium levels). Severe cases will require a vet visit for intensive treatment.

 

 

 

Is there any long-term sequelae for affected cows ?

Even if cows recover, their fertility may be permanently impaired, usually because adhesions have developed in the uterus/ovaries. Therefore, culling animals for poor fertility may be required. In addition, sick cows with metritis are more likely to develop an LDA or have persistent endometritis.