Increase in Abortions Noted in Kentucky Broodmares

The University of Kentucky's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL) has noted an increase in the number of abortions reported in Kentucky's 2011 foal crop, especially those caused by nocardioform placentitis. The VDL, which reported 19 cases from July to Dec. 2010, saw 34 cases of abortion caused by nocardioform placentitis from Jan. 1 to Jan. 24.

"At the UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, every year we constantly monitor the equine abortion cases we receive to determine the causes and trends," said Neil Williams, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVP, associate director of the VDL. "We have cases of nocardioform placentitis every year (monitored by foal crop loses rather than calendar year). Some years it is more common. This year to date has had a moderate to large number of cases."

Williams added that while nocardioform placentitis is believed to be impacted by environmental factors, researchers have yet to pinpoint what those factors might be.

Nocardioform placentitis is a distinct form of placentitis (inflammation of the placenta) characterized by the area that is affected. Most placentitis cases are caused by an infection near the cervix, however nocardioform placentitis causes lesions at the top of the placenta rather than at the cervix of the placenta. The lesions often extend onto the area where the uterus joins the uterine horns. The affected area usually is large, but isolated. The surface of the placenta is covered with a thick, brown exudate (pus), which contains dead placental cells, white blood cells, and bacteria.

"Breeders should be monitoring for any abnormal discharges and mammary gland development in advance of the actual due date," Williams added. "Consultation with their veterinarian is advisable. The veterinarian can perform an examination including ultrasonography which can help establish a diagnosis of placentitis.

"While this is a fairly big year for nocardioform placentitis, it is nothing really out of the ordinary," he added. "The cases we are seeing and the bacteria we are culturing are consistent with our findings in prior years. Laura Kennedy, DVM, Dipl. ACVP, from our lab is doing extensive analysis of our abortion cases to get a better idea of what we are experiencing with this foal crop. We should have additional information in the near future."

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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