How to resolve Vaginal prolapse in a dairy cow

Vaginal prolapse in dairy cow

A vaginal prolapse occurs due to increased pressure in the abdominal cavity during the latter stages of pregnancy This type of prolapse is more common than a uterine prolapse and typically looks like a pink bulge of tissue ranging in size from a large grapefruit to a soccer ball.

Prolapse in dairy cow
Prolapse in cow

The bulge often retracts when the cow gets up and pressure is reduced. Once this tissue becomes prolapsed, it is exposed to environmental elements (e.g., dust, sun or manure) and to potential infectious organisms.
Vaginal prolapses are recurring problems. If a vaginal prolapse occurs and is repaired, the cow is highly
likely to prolapse again next year when calving. 

Vaginal prolapse can be an inherited trait, making the daughter of a cow that experienced this problem likely to also suffer a vaginal prolapse in her lifetime. For this reason, cattle that have had a vaginal prolapse should be culled, and their offspring should not be used for breeding purposes. This includes bull calves, as they may pass on the unfavorable genetic trait to female offspring and propagate the problem in the herd.

Older cows, cows carrying twins are more prone to have vaginal prolapses.

To help prevent vaginal prolapses, it is important to restrict cows from becoming overly fat during the last trimester of pregnancy. Ideally, cows should be provided a ration to keep their body condition scores between 5 and 6 at the time of calving. Although a vaginal prolapse is not in itself considered life-threatening, it should be repaired as soon as possible.

Once the vaginal tissue has prolapsed, the blood supply to the tissue is compromised. This leads to swelling, which makes it even more difficult to correctly reposition the exposed tissue. If the prolapse increases in size, pressure is placed on the urinary passage, subsequently restricting the ability of the cow to urinate. The large urinary bladder further hinders the ability to reposition the prolapsed vagina.

The procedure for replacing a prolapsed vagina requires restraint of the cow, preferably with a pole
behind her to prevent kicking. The vaginal tissue should be cleaned with warm water and a mild disinfectant prior to placing it back into the animal to prevent irritation and/or infection. If a prolapse has been exposed for a long period of time, the tissue may be dry, damaged and inflamed, making it very difficult to perform the corrective procedure. Once the tissue is positioned correctly, several stitches can be applied around the vulva to keep the tissue in place.

The cow should be able to urinate through the stitches. Near-term cows should be monitored regularly for signs of calving, as the stitches will need to be removed to prevent calving difficulty. Once the cow has given birth, the increased abdominal pressure that caused the prolapse will no longer exist, so the stitches will no longer be needed.

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