Bovis ISSN 2398-2993

Investigating abortion outbreaks

Contributor(s): Ben Dustan , Keith Cutler

Introduction

  • Abortion is defined as fetal death and expulsion between 42 and 270 days of gestation.
  • Calves born dead after this time are defined as stillbirth and pregnancy failure before 42 days is defined as embryonic loss.
  • Calves less than 120 days gestation may be reabsorbed or an early abortion may go unnoticed by the stock person.
In many countries, including the UK, it is a legal requirement to report all cattle abortions to the Animal Health Office.
  • Investigating abortions can be complex and at times frustrating, particularly as many sporadic abortions do not have an infectious etiology. Often in these circumstances a diagnosis is not reached.
  • An outbreak of abortions is more likely to have an infectious cause or a common factor, and the diagnostic rate increases as the number of abortions from an outbreak rises.
  • This article looks specifically at the investigation of abortion outbreaks and attempts to standardize the approach to investigation and encourage the clinician to make cost-effective and efficient use of available resources.
  • The information presented below has also been summarized in a flowchart Abortion investigation flowchart.

Investigating abortion outbreaks

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Interpretation and collation of results

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Subsequent to an investigation

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed Papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Windham E, Kenny E, Brennan M, Wapenaar W (2014) How to improve abortion investigations? Perceptions, motivators and barriers of UK and Irish veterinary surgeons. Cattle Practice 22(2), 149.
  • Caldow G, Buxton D, Nettleton P F (2002) Investigating bovine abortion: What samples when? Cattle Practice 10(4), 269-274.
  • Pritchard G C (1993) Diagnosis of infectious causes of bovine abortion. Cattle Practice 2(1), 115-118.

Other sources of information

  • Laven R (2018) Dealing with abortion: Fertility in Dairy Herds. NADIS Animal Health Skills online www.nadis.org.uk.
  • Andrews A H, Blowey R W & Eddy R G (2008) Fetal Loss. In: Bovine Medicine. 2nd Edition. Ch 37, pp 577-589.
  • Noakes D E, Parkinson T J, England G C W (2001) Veterinary Control of Herd Fertility. In: Veterinary Reproduction and Obstetrics. 8th Edition. Part 5 Infertility Ch 24,  pp 518-519.


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