Emergency diseases in horses

Page last updated: Tuesday, 1 March 2022 - 10:49am

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Contagious equine metritis

Contagious equine metritis (CEM) was first diagnosed in 1977 in the UK and spread to many countries, initially in thoroughbreds. It was also identified in Australia in 1977, but since eradication in 1980, Australia has been free of the disease. Contagious equine metritis currently occurs in parts of Western Europe and South Africa.

Contagious equine metritis is caused by the bacteria Taylorella equigenitalis. Horses are the only hosts. The disease was originally detected in thoroughbreds but is now rare. Cases still occur in warmblood and Arabian horses. Transmission is venereal by both mares and stallions. Transmission may also occur with poor hygiene when examining genital tracts of mares and stallions.

Signs of contagious equine metritis

Signs include:

  • mares develop an inflamed vagina and thick, odourless discharge from their genital tract 1–3 days after mating, or sometimes later
  • there may be a lot of discharge or only an accumulation of grey or grey-white fluid in the vagina
  • discharge usually disappears after 3–4 weeks
  • mares may return to heat a few days after infection.

Stallions show no clinical signs and some infected mares show no signs. Test for CEM if mares show chronic infertility.

Contact information

Sue Skirrow
+61 (0)8 9892 8490