Vaginal and Uterine Prolapses in Beef Cows - Frequently Asked Questions

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 What is a prolapse?
A prolapse is defined as falling down or slipping of a body part from its usual position.

Vaginal Prolapse
Eversion and prolapse of the vagina with or without prolapse of the cervix occur commonly in beef cows. Vaginal and cervical prolapse are more often seen in mature cows during the last two to three months of pregnancy.

Causes of Vaginal Prolapse
Factors that predispose to vaginal prolapse include over-conditioned obese cows, increased intra-abdominal pressure from increased size of the pregnant uterus, intra-abdominal fat or distention of fore-stomach superimposed with relaxed muscles and softening of soft tissues around the birth canal as a result of increased hormone (relaxin and estrogen) production during late pregnancy in preparation for calving.
Grazing on pastures containing plants that produce high amounts of phytoestrogens (Trifolium subterraneum) and heifers implanted with growth implants containing estrogens increases the risk of getting a vaginal prolapse.
Donor cows in embryo transfer programs are at risk to develop vaginal prolapse as a result of effect of the increased amounts of estrogen released during multiple follicle development.
Stabled cows are more prone to develop vaginal and cervical prolapse than cows that are out on pasture.

How do I treat a vaginal prolapse?
The prolapsed vagina and cervix must be replaced back to their original position inside the cow and maintained and retained in that position using a number of different retention techniques. Regional anaesthesia (epidural anaesthesia) is necessary to replace and retain the prolapse without pain and discomfort to the cow and your herd veterinarian will be able to help with this procedure.

What can I do to prevent vaginal prolapse?
It is important not to allow cows to become overly fat during the last trimester of pregnancy. Cull animals that have experienced a previous vaginal prolapse. Vaginal and cervical prolapse have a hereditary predisposition. Brahman, Brahman crossbreds and Hereford breeds are more prone to develop vaginal prolapse. Avoid keeping replacement heifers or breeding bulls from known lines that have experienced vaginal prolapses.

Uterine Prolapse
Uterine prolapse occurs immediately or within a few hours after calving. The uterus (calf-bed) is completely expelled out at the back of the cow and will hang along the back of hind legs when the cow is standing.
Uterine prolapse is a life threatening condition for the cow, and the uterus must be replaced back to its normal position within the abdomen as quickly as possible. A cow with uterine prolapse can go into shock quickly and die from blood loss. Avoid chasing or moving a cow with uterine prolapse and consult your veterinarian for further instructions based on the location of the cow on the farm.

What causes a Uterine Prolapse?
Difficult calving that causes injury or irritation of the external birth canal, severe straining, or excessive force applied when pulling an oversize calf can cause a uterine prolapse. Poor uterine tone and low blood calcium levels have been incriminated and animals in poor body condition will have increased risk of getting uterine prolapse.

How do I treat a uterine prolapse?
A uterine prolapse is an emergency situation, and it is critical for the cow to be treated immediately. Contact your veterinarian for assistance with this procedure.

Long term consequences of uterine prolapse?
With uterine prolapses, if a good clean job is done replacing the uterus, it is not necessary to cull the cow from the herd. Severe damage to the prolapsed uterus or uterine infection that does not resolve in a timely manner after replacement and treatment may delay or prevent subsequent rebreeding and pregnancy.

Last Trimester of Pregnancy

Prepared byDr.Jagdish Patel, Animal Health Section.

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Hernan Ortegon.
This document is maintained by Brenda McLellan.
This information published to the web on February 18, 2004.
Last Reviewed/Revised on December 14, 2017.