Normally after lambing or kidding, a ewe or nanny will expel the afterbirth or placenta within an hour or two.
But sometimes the placenta can be stubborn about being released during the cleansing phase of lambing or kidding.
In sheep and goats a placenta that does not evacuate the uterus after about 12 hours or so is known as a retained placenta.
There are several possible reasons for retained placenta in small ruminants. Too much grain, low quality hay, a overlarge lamb or kid; lack of exercise, nutritional deficiencies, premature birth, stillbirth, abortion and infection are all associated with retained placenta in livestock.
Retained placenta is usually no cause for alarm as long as a few simple guidelines are followed.
It’s is safest not to try to manually remove the placenta.
Often the placenta is completely retained and there is no sign of it.
But sometimes the retained placenta will be seen hanging out of the vulva. After 12 hours or so, little harm will be done by very gently testing the adhesiveness of the placenta. In such cases if the placenta doesn’t readily flop out of the ewe or nanny after a very slight tug – leave it alone.
What is important to remember is that the placenta is attached to the uterine wall by disk-shaped cotyledons. If you try to pull the placenta away from the uterus before it is ready to be shed, you can injure the ewe or doe and run the risk of adversely affecting her future pregnancies.
Pulling on the placenta also increases the chances for bleeding and infection.
The best course of action is to prophylactically protect the ewe or nanny with an antibiotic and keep a very watchful eye on her.
In ewes or nannies that have retained their placenta, I use 10- 20cc of injectable penicillin (Penicillin G Procaine – 300,000 units per ml) via a SQ or IM injection every 48 hours until the placenta is released.
Most often the placenta is sloughed away within 3 – 5 days and the ewe or nanny will go on with life as if nothing happened.
If the nanny or ewe should go off her feed she may need an injection of Dexamethasone as a supportive therapy. Dexamethasone is a synthetic analogue of prednisolone. It has a similar but more potent anti-inflammatory therapeutic action than prednisolone and is available only on the order of a licensed veterinarian.