My mare will soon be 24. She has had 13 foals, 2 for me. She last foaled in 2006 and retained some placenta. She had a bad infection which nearly killed her, but she got over it. I bred her halfheartedly that year, just happy she was still alive. She had an EED and, as it was late in the season, I decided a year off would be ok. (Although I didn't have much choice because the stallion stopped collecting).
This year we started in April and soon found she had an infection (yeast + strep zoo). My vet and I tried very very hard -- 8 days of lavage -- and managed to get a clean culture and cytology. I bred her but she held the follicle forever and didn't take. When she was ready to go again (even after post breeding lavage and oxytocin protocol) she again came up with yeast.
I decided to retire her. At this point, her vulval conformation is quite bad and she clearly can't clean herself.
My question or situation is this: now, seven months later (in Nov) she's short-cycling herself and exuding pus. I'm fairly certain it's a case of chronic pyometra. She's eating fine and seems otherwise healthy, though she does seem to have a bit of edema at her sides and her sides are painful. (If you put pressure on her as if checking for a foal, she'll quickly raise a hind leg at you, which is very uncharacteristic).
Everything I've read about pyometras says that if you don't plan to breed the mare, just leave them alone. But I'm a little torn over it. If she's painful, shouldn't I do something? Does she require a week of lavages every six months? I can't put her (or me -- I did them all) through that.
Will this get worse? What effect will this eventually have on her? How long can a mare go like this?
Pyometra in the equine is most commonly characterized by a pus-filled uterus with a closed cervix. I would therefore have the mare ultrasounded to check whether this is the case or not. It may be that it is not particularly bad and she is still cycling at which time (estrus) she is leaking the pus through the now-open cervix.
There really isn't much you can do with a chronic pyometra. It is not like pyometra in the dog, where systemic illness is a sequela, but will typically just be there. If you're not planning on breeding her again, the simplest thing is to ignore it. Essentially the only alternative is repeated a treatment cycle and reinfection; or a hysterectomy (which is not commonly performed in the equine).
Thanks Jos (and Tracy). My suspicion is that it may be somewhat bad. I've read that in some of the more extreme cases the mare seems to be pregnant because the uterus becomes that distended. I forgot to mention that in the past eight weeks I've been wondering if she may, by some miracle, be pregnant, because she's been getting larger. I gave up that hope when I realized she was short cycling herself.
I guess I just have trouble with ignoring it when she seems to have discomfort. She has edema and discharge. Added to her lymphangitis, I'm just wondering how much discomfort the old girl should be expected to bear. I'll talk to my vet and see what he thinks.
If there are others out there who have had retired mares in the same boat, I'd be interested to know how things played out for you. Will she reach a point where she just stops eating, or, as some of the literature seems to indicate, is there the possibility that the uterus would actually rupture?
The degree of uterine distention would not be likely to manifest as an enlargement visible externally. Most pregnant mares do not manifest as such (despite the owner's frequent assertions to the contrary! ) until about 6-7 months.
I suspect that edema if present is a separate issue from the pyometra. As I noted above, the equine uterus is a tremendously insulated organ, so good or bad things can happen independent of the system outside the uterus.
Rupture would be unlikely, especially if she is draining which you seem to be indicating she is.
She is just past 7 months since we bred her. It would be pretty unreal if this turned out to be a pregnancy, so I won't hold my breath!
I'm glad to hear rupture is unlikely.
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