Uterine infections in post partum cows

Bacterial uterine infections disrupt not only the function of the uterus, but also the ovary and the control centres in the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. The correct diagnosis and treatment of uterine diseases is a key component of all reproduction management programs.

Classification of uterine infections

Traditional classifications differentiate between acute endometritis (vaginal discharge, enlarged uterus and clinical disease) occurring until 14 days post partum and subacute-chronic endometritis (limited vaginal discharge, absence of clinical signs) occurring beyond 14 days post partum.

Recently Sheldon et al. proposed clear clinical definitions allowing for a description and differentiation of the most important uterine problems.

The classification of uterine infections in cows
DefinitionClinical signs
Peurperal metritis
Acute systemic illness due to infection of the uterus with bacteria usually within 10 days of parturition.
  • fetid red-brown watery uterine discharge
  • usually pyrexia

In severe cases:

  • reduced milk yield
  • dullness
  • inappetance or anorexia
  • elevated heart rate
  • apparent dehydration
Clinical endometritis
Infection of the uterus within 21 days or more post partum not accompanied by systemic signs.
  • Purulent or mucopurulent uterine discharge.
  • No signs of clinical illness
Subclinical endometritis
Inflammation of the endometrium of the uterus. Diagnosed by cytology in the abscence of a purulent vaginal discharge.

Cytology of vaginal disharge:

  • >18% neutrophils 20 - 30 days post partum
  • >10% neutrophils 34 - 47 days post partum

Repeat breeding is usually seen.

Pyometra
Accumulation of purulent or mucopurulent within the uterine lumen and distension of the uterus in the presence of an active corpus luteum.
vaginal discharge

Vaginal discharge in a case of a uterine infection in a dairy cow

The correct diagnosis and treatment of uterine diseases is a key component of all reproduction management programs.