Equine Obstetric Lubricants

"With such long necks and long limbs, it's a wonder any foal can be born normally," observed Grant S. Frazer, BVSc, MSc, MBA, Dipl. ACT, associate professor in reproduction at The Ohio State University's College of Veterinary Medicine at the recent American College of Theriogenology (ACT) annual meeting on Aug. 4-7 in Lexington, Ky. For those times when Mother Nature doesn't mastermind the perfect delivery, Frazer and other theriogenologists--specialists in reproduction--might utilize a lubricant to lessen the impact of human intervention.

"The vagina and reproductive tract don't like manipulation, i.e., a human arm, and will lay down scar tissue very quickly," says Frazer. "The mare's future fertility can be compromised." Frazer presented a "review of the literature" at the ACT meeting.

When a problem delivery requires volume expansion to give "more room to work," the lubricant of choice has been a polymer that starts as a white powder, then forms a thick lubricating jelly when mixed with water.

In obstetrics, as in all areas of medicine, cleanliness is paramount. Frazer wondered, if a mare needs a Cesarean section--"What happens if we spill this?" His study, funded by the Ohio Racing Commission, theorized that the lubricant was fairly innocuous.

He found that the lubricant would likely be toxic to horses if spilled within the peritoneal (abdominal) cavity. Rodents used in the study died after passing bloody urine. "It was most unexpected," Frazer recalled.

"The lubricant is fine when used within the uterus," noted Frazer, who views that reproductive organ as well as the equine vagina connected to it as "an extension of the outside world." In a hospital setting, a mare scheduled for C-section is positioned on her back. "Most of the lubricant will run out through the vagina while the mare is being prepped, and the foal will be elevated out of the incision," said Frazer. But he cautioned that he no longer felt comfortable using the lubricant in an animal destined for surgery.

A mare taken to an equine hospital for a surgical procedure might benefit from another mix-with-water lubricant, carboxymethylcellulose. This substance is actually added to the abdominal cavity by some surgeons in the belief that it might reduce adhesions after surgery.

About the Author

Stephanie Stephens

Stephanie Stephens is a USEF Media Award winner and American Horse Publications award winner whose work appears in major consumer magazines worldwide. She lives in Southern Calif., but she splits her time between New Zealand and the United States.

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