• Open Access

Physiology and Treatment of Retained Fetal Membranes in Cattle


Corresponding author: J. Scherzer, Department of Large Animal Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602; e-mail: jakobs@uga.edu.


Retained fetal membranes (RFM) in cattle have adverse effects on fertility and production. Understanding the pathophysiology and causes of RFM is important for managing this disease. The hormonal processes that lead to normal placental separation are multifactorial and begin before parturition. A variety of risk factors, including early or induced parturition, dystocia, hormonal imbalances, and immunosuppression, can interrupt these normal processes and result in retention of the placenta. Current research does not support the efficacy of many commonly practiced treatments for RFM. Systemic administration of antibiotics can be beneficial for treating metritis after RFM, but antibiotic administration has not been shown to significantly improve future reproduction in cows with RFM. Collagenase injected into the umbilical arteries of retained placentas specifically targets the lack of placentome proteolysis and might enhance placental release. However, such therapy is costly and its benefits in terms of improving subsequent reproductive function have not been evaluated.