Merck Manual

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Professional Version

Retained Fetal Membranes in Does and Ewes


Jennifer N. Roberts

, DVM, DACT, Michigan State University

Reviewed/Revised Aug 2022 | Modified Oct 2022

The placenta is usually expelled within 6 hours after parturition in small ruminants and is considered retained if not expelled by 12–18 hours after parturition. Causes of retained fetal membranes in sheep and goats include deficiency of selenium Nutritional Myopathies in Ruminants and Pigs Young Boer goat kid with white muscle disease. The patient can move its legs normally but is too weak to stand. CK and AST concentrations were elevated on serum biochemical evaluation. The goat... read more Nutritional Myopathies in Ruminants and Pigs or vitamin A, infectious abortion (toxoplasmosis Toxoplasmosis in Animals Toxoplasmosis is an important zoonotic protozoal infection worldwide. All homoeothermic animal species may be infected. Infection is generally asymptomatic and chronic in immunocompetent individuals... read more , listeriosis Listeriosis in Animals The most common clinical manifestation of listeriosis is a localized ascending asymmetric infection of the brain stem of ruminants by Listeria monocytogenes. The resultant meningoencephalitis... read more Listeriosis in Animals , and campylobacteriosis Enteric Campylobacteriosis in Animals Campylobacter spp cause GI disease in humans and several animal species. Although Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli are the best-characterized species within the... read more Enteric Campylobacteriosis in Animals ), obesity of the dam, hypocalcemia Parturient Paresis in Sheep and Goats Parturient paresis in pregnant and lactating ewes and does is a disturbance of metabolism characterized by acute-onset hypocalcemia and rapid development of hyperexcitability and ataxia, progressing... read more , and dystocia.

In does and ewes, retained fetal membranes are relatively uncommon, although an increased incidence has been reported in dairy goats. Retained fetal membranes are the most common complication after C-section in these species.

Veterinarians and clients should take necessary precautions in handling fetal membranes in cases where an infectious cause is suspected because many infectious causes of abortion in small ruminants are zoonotic.

Systemic treatment to guard against infection and gentle traction on exposed membranes may be used.

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