Therapy and prevention of retained foetal membranes in cattle

The goal of an ideal therapy of retained foetal membranes would be to hasten the separation of the placenta and its expulsion from the uterine cavity as well as eliminate the bacterial contamination of the uterus. So far however a truly successful therapy has not been identified.

Manual removal of the membranes

Manual removal had been a common practice in the past. This method should not be used because of possible injury to the endometrium and uterine cervix. Moreover there is little evidence that such a practice produces any beneficial effect (Drillich et al., 2006)

Hormonal therapy

Although occasional reports exist, in general immediate post partum administration of PGF2alpha, oxytocin or calcium as summarized by LeBlanc (2008) have generally low efficacy in preventing the retained placenta or hastening the separation and expulsion of retrained foetal membranes.

Anti-infective therapy

Generally saying the dominant approach to retained placenta in cattle in the field condition is to administer locally or systemically antibiotics. Several studies indicate that approx. 50-80% of cows with retained foetal membranes exhibit elevated body temperature (>39ºC) for at least 1 d within 10d pp. It is not clear whether all such animals indeed would need a systemic treatment with antibiotics.

Intrauterine antibiotics used in the treatment of retained placenta should have high activity against E.coli and be free of irritating properties.
On many farms all cows with a rectal temperature ≥ 39.5°C within the first 10 days post calving receive a systemic antibiotic treatment.
There are number of reports indicating advantage of either intrauterine or systemic treatment but also some that demonstrated comparable efficacy of either of the approaches.
LeBlanc (2008) stressed that at present it seems economically preferable to selectively treat metritis cases rather than automatically treat all cows with retained placenta with antibiotics.

Homeopathic products

Some products are thought to improve contractility of the uterine muscle and intensify the blood flow in the endometrium (products containing pulsatilla and other ergots). Unfortunately little is know of their real efficacy.

Prevention of retained placenta

Recent discoveries indicate that retention of foetal membranes is associated with decreased immunity.

Prevention of retained placenta in cows post calving
Metabolic diseases impair uterine immunity (Zerbe et al., 2001)

Proper nutrition in peripartum period to avoid metabolic diseases.

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can impair general immunityVitamin E and Selenium supplementation
(LeBlanc et al., 2002)
Maintenance of Ca:P ratio of 1.5:1.0 and P supplementation
Infectious diseasesProper immunisation against specific infections


Retained placenta in a dairy cow

uterine palpation

Uterine palpation

uterine lavage

Uterine lavage