Rude Noises

Q. My new mare had trouble foaling her colt three years ago and ended up tearing, requiring stitches. Now she is constantly "sucking air" (into her vulva), and it sounds awful. Is there anything that can be done to rectify this or minimize the air intake?

Jacqueline, Surrey, B.C., Canada

A. The situation you describe with your mare is a fairly common one. During the foaling process a number of important structures can be injured, usually resulting in tearing of the structure from being overstretched or from being caught up in an improperly positioned limb of the foal.

Sometimes these torn structures can be sutured at the time of foaling, but more often they are left alone and sutured some time later, when all swelling and edema has resolved.

Although your mare was sutured, it sounds like there is still a physical defect allowing air to enter her vagina.

In normal mares, the vulva and surrounding perineal tissues create a tight seal, keeping air out of the vagina. If this seal is weak, as the mare moves about and the abdomen swings, air is sucked into and pushed out of the vagina, making a sucking sound.

This sound is no doubt irritating to you, but more serious things might be happening. As air is sucked in to the vagina, other things in the area--such as feces, hair, and debris--can also be sucked into the vaginal vault. This can lead to uterine or urinary system infections, with serious repercussions for general health, especially reproductive soundness.

Even if you do not intend to breed your mare again, her level of performance can be negatively impacted by this situation. These mares are often irritated by this condition and show signs of agitation while being worked, such as tail-switching, bucking, or just not performing up to potential.

In summary, I would recommend you have your mare examined by a veterinarian. In most of these cases, the vulvar seal can be reestablished and a favorable outcome achieved with some reconstructive surgery. I realize that your mare was already sutured, but in some cases more than one surgery is required.

About the Author

Alex Wales, DVM

Alex Wales, DVM, is a veterinarian practicing in Winfield, B.C., Canada.

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