Prolapses in Cows

23 Apr 2021


A prolapse is the expulsion of reproductive tissue from a cow. There are two types of prolapse, namely the vaginal prolapse and the uterine prolapse.

According to Meatco, vaginal prolapse appears as a bulge of various sizes, some resembling a grapefruit and others as big as a soccer ball, while uterine prolapse appears as disk-like cotyledons that often hang out up to the hocks. It is important to differentiate between the two, Maseke says.

Vaginal prolapse is hereditary and is common in certain breeds of cattle such as Brahman or older cows carrying twins. This type of prolapse appears spontaneously and may also disappear spontaneously if the cow changes posture. It may be a life-long occurrence in the affected cow.

In severe cases, the blood supply to the prolapse is compromised, resulting in swelling that prevents it from sliding back into position. The prolapse may also block the urinary tract, resulting in a filled bladder which also prevents the prolapse to return.

Vaginal prolapse should be treated as soon as possible to prevent infection or laceration of the prolapsed tissue. It involves washing and cleaning the prolapsed tissue with clean water and non-irritating disinfectant. Lifting the tissue higher than the back line to improve blood circulation and reducing the swelling. Often when the tissue is lifted, urination may follow, and this should be allowed to empty the bladder. The tissue should be lubricated and gently massaged back into position. Various techniques can be applied to close the vulva lips and prevent relapses, but care should be taken to ensure urination is still possible. Uterine pessaries may be inserted to prevent infection in the uterus and a short course of antibiotics may be considered.

Because prolapses can recur, Maseke advises farmers to exclude the affected cows in the selection of breeding animals and to cull them as soon as possible.

The uterine prolapse often occurs after difficult birth in cows that are too fat or underweight. This is a medical emergency, as the cow can die of blood loss, internal bleeding or septic shock, if the uterus is not properly returned. The farmer should contact the veterinarian as soon as possible in such cases for a prognosis and treatment plan.