Updated: Mar 13
Vaginitis is inflammation of the vagina, usually due to manure contamination. Mares in which the vagina is located further back than the rectum will contaminate their vagina when defecating. The contamination will cause infection from bacteria and subsequent irritation of the vaginal canal. Irritation in this area can cause a filly or mare to move in a way indicative of lameness.
A mare with vaginitis usually poses a problem in diagnosis. At times it seems that this is the last area a veterinarian would come to; examining it only after all leg problems have been eliminated. In actual fact, the condition is very common and therefore routine examination of the female reproductive tract is a necessity. Most mares with irritation will be redder than normal on the inside lining. Some will actually have distinct raw areas. Other mares will appear to be continuously in heat, urinating and "winking" very often. Mares which tend to "wind-suck" are almost always infected.
When in motion, the animal may tend to have a hitch behind. By this we mean that one leg will seem to go up very high, and then come down very quickly giving one the impression that the mare is almost hopping on one side. At times this "hitch" is noticeable as soon as the mare walks out of the barn towards the track/or riding ring. Other mares may tend to move with a humped up appearance, such that their hind legs are carried further forward than normal. Still others may appear normal, but will not finish the mile well in racing or not competing well in other types of performance events.
The cure for the condition is first to remove the infection from the vagina by infusing the area with an appropriate antibiotic. This may require taking a sample from the vagina in order to find out which drug is most able to kill the infection. After the infection has been cleared up, a "Caslick's Operation" should be performed. This is a simple surgical technique by which the vagina is sewn shut, leaving only a small opening for urination.
Many veterinarians feel that any filly or mare racing or performing, should be routinely sewn shut. The condition is far too common and therefore it is best to avoid the problem right from the beginning. When it does occur, it can be difficult to diagnose, and the horse may end up losing a considerable amount of racing/performing time.