Perineal Laceration - Horse


Perineal lacerations in horses are the result of foaling injuries.

There are three levels of perineal laceration:

  • First Degree = damage to skin and mucous membrane only
  • Second Degree = damage to skin, mucous membrane and musculature
  • Third Degree = complete perforation of the vaginal wall and rectum producing a single opening to the rectum and vagina

Initial Assessment and Stabilisation

  1. Assess vital parameters for evidence of internal haemorrhage. This should including heart rate and mucous membrane colour.
  2. Palpate the anterior vagina and rectum, examining for evidence of possible tears in the abdominal cavity or peri-rectal space.
  3. Assess the location, size and depth of the tear and extent of deep-tissue injury.
  4. Prevent or treat injury to other pelvic organs. Such injuries include uterine haemorrhage, tearing of the middle uterine artery, prolapse of the bladder, and injury to the small or large colon. They tend to be caused by the foal’s hind legs.


All cases should receive anti-inflammatories, antibiotics and tetanus antitoxin.

First Degree

Vulval lacerations should be repaired immediately.

Second Degree

The wound should be surgically repaired after the formation of granulation tissue.

Third Degree

Treatment of third degree perineal laceration is always surgical and the aim is to restore normal anatomy. If the foaling injury is less than 3 hours old, immediate repair can be considered but is rarely performed. There is usually extensive bruising and laceration therefore repair should be delayed until bruising has subsided and granulation tissue has formed, usually a minimum of 6–8 weeks after foaling.

Preparation for surgery:

A laxative diet should be fed. The horse should be placed in stocks and sedated and restrained appropriately. The tail should be wrapped and tied, an epidural administered and the rectum emptied and packed to prevent contamination. The area should be clipped and scrubbed and dorsolateral and ventrolateral retention sutures placed.

There are two techniques for repair of a third degree perineal laceration:

The Aanes technique is a two-stage repair technique:
Stage 1 is the reconstruction of the recto-vestibular shelf (the perineal body is left open). The wound is dissected to 2-3cm past the defect and then the shelf is closed in two layers - a simple continuous pattern is used in the tissue beneath the rectal mucosa to invert it and a six-bite interrupted purse-string suture is used to close the perineal shelf and vaginal mucosa.
Stage 2 involves the closure of the perineal body 3–4 weeks later. The site should be infiltrated with local anaesthetic prior to surgery. Excess tissue is removed and the edges of skin are sutured from the anal sphincter to the most ventral point of the incision. To eliminate dead space additional sutures may be placed deep to the perineal body. It is important that no sutures are placed in the anal sphincter. Sutures should be removed after 7-10 days.
The Goetze technique is a one-stage operation that involves everting the rectal mucosa into the rectum and vaginal mucosa into the vagina using a purse string suture

Endometrial swabs should be taken once the wound has healed to check for the presence of endometritis.


The outcome is usually good if normal anatomy is restored, allowing normal function.

Perineal Laceration - Horse Learning Resources
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Test your knowledge using flashcard type questions
Equine Reproduction and Stud Medicine Q&A 18


Pycock, JF (1997) Self-Assessment Colour Review Equine Reproduction and Stud Medicine Manson

McGladdery, A (2001) Dystocia and post-partum complications in the mare In Practice 2001 23: 74-8

Shepard, C (2010) Post-parturition examination of the foal and mare In Practice 2010 32: 97-10

RVC staff (2009) Urogenital system RVC Intergrated BVetMed Course, Royal Veterinary College

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