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Cow laying in field

Metritis

Metritis, an inflammation of the entire uterine wall caused by bacterial infection, is nearly always seen after an abnormal birth or a marked uterine infection.

It varies from a subclinical infection to illness with pyrexia and reduced milk yield.

Metritis makes the cow more susceptible to ketosis, displaced abomasum and other postpartum ailments and can lead to impaired fertility – either temporary or permanent – and even, on occasions to death.

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  • Metritis is commonly associated with uterine contamination from Arcanobacterium pyogenes, either alone or in conjunction with other pathogenic organisms: Fusobacterium necrophorum, Bacteroides spp. and Escherichia coli.
    Just after calving, the uterus is an ideal environment for bacterial growth. During the first 2 weeks postpartum, bacterial contamination occurs in up to 80-100 percent of cows1.

    These routine occurrences can overwhelm the fresh cow’s defence system and increase the chances of metritis: twins, dead calf, difficulty calving, improper calving assistance or milk fever.

    Inadequate nutrition can interfere with uterine involution after calving. Rapid involution is key to naturally expelling fluid, placental membranes and bacteria from the reproductive tract.

  • Some uterine discharge for about two weeks after calving is a normal sign of healthy involution and evacuation of the uterus. But when a foul-smell and fever accompany this watery vaginal discharge, metritis is usually the cause.
    In addition to the discharge, symptoms include fever, decreased appetite, dehydration, depression and reduced milk production.

  • Diagnosis may be made on clinical signs and the history (e.g. assisted calving a few days previously), but culture of endometrial fluid may be required to determine the antibiotic susceptibility of micro-organisms.

  • The approach to treatment may be both local and systemic, depending on exact circumstances. In general, systemic broad spectrum antimicrobials are indicated.

    The following therapeutic options may be employed either alone or in combination depending individual case:
    Broad-spectrum anti-infectives
    Antiseptic chemicals
    Uterine local treatment
    Prostaglandins
    Supportive therapies – fluids, supplements, anti inflammatories

  • Prevention and early intervention are key strategies to limit the economic impact of metritis.

    Use these management practices to decrease the incidence of metritis:
    Appropriate nutrition prior to calving
    Clean, dry calving facilities
    Sanitary calving assistance

  • Metritis can have a profound effect on cow performance and profitability, given that the disease can cause1:
    Lost income from reduced milk yield
    Prolonged days open, due to lower conception and oestrus detection rates
    Higher insemination costs, due to repeat artificial insemination services
    Increased culling rate, resulting in higher replacement costs
    Greater costs for veterinary interventions

  • 1Sheldon, I.M., et al (2008). The Vet Journal 176. Pp115-121