Get access

Clinical and Subclinical Endometritis in the Mare: Both Threats to Fertility


Author’s address (for correspondence): Michelle M LeBlanc, Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, Lexington, KY 40580, USA. E-mail:


Endometritis, a major cause of mare infertility arising from failure to remove bacteria, spermatozoa and inflammatory exudate post-breeding, is often undiagnosed. Defects in genital anatomy, myometrial contractions, lymphatic drainage, mucociliary clearance, cervical function, plus vascular degeneration and inflamm-ageing underlie susceptibility to endometritis. Diagnosis is made through detecting uterine fluid, vaginitis, vaginal discharge, short inter-oestrous intervals, inflammatory uterine cytology and positive uterine culture. However, these signs may be absent in subclinical cases. Hypersecretion of an irritating, watery, neutrophilic exudate underlies classic, easy-to-detect streptococcal endometritis. In contrast, biofilm production, tenacious exudate and focal infection may characterize subclinical endometritis, commonly caused by Gram-negative organisms, fungi and staphylococci. Signs of subclinical endometritis include excessive oedema post-mating and a white line between endometrial folds on ultrasound. In addition, cultures of uterine biopsy tissue or of small volume uterine lavage are twice as sensitive as guarded swabs in detecting Gram-negative organisms, while uterine cytology is twice as sensitive as culture in detecting endometritis. Uterine biopsy may detect deep inflammatory and degenerative changes, such as disruption of the elastic fibres of uterine vessels (elastosis), while endoscopy reveals focal lesions invisible on ultrasound. Mares with subclinical endometritis require careful monitoring by ultrasound post-breeding. Treatments that may be added to traditional therapies, such as post-breeding uterine lavage, oxytocin and intrauterine antibiotics, include lavage 1-h before mating, carbetocin, cloprostenol, cervical dilators, systemic antibiotics, intrauterine chelators (EDTA–Tris), mucolytics (DMSO, kerosene, N-acetylcysteine), corticosteroids (prednisolone, dexamethasone) and immunomodulators (cell wall extracts of Mycobacterium phlei and Propionibacterium acnes).