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For all horse breeders, it is important to realize that not every mare will give birth to a live foal. In the mare, fertilization occurs in the fallopian tube and can take place through either natural or artificial insemination.
The next stage in the reproductive process is gestation, which begins when the oocyte is fertilized and ends at birth. The early pregnancy, called the embryonic vesicle, moves around the inside of the uterus for about 10 days. An early diagnosis of pregnancy is important because mares carrying foals need careful management. Movement of the embryonic vesicle throughout the uterus until about day 16 post-ovulation is thought to be important for the conceptus to "signal" to the dam that pregnancy has occurred, thereby preventing luteolysis (degeneration of the corpus luteum).
The eCG is responsible for the continued maintenance and development of the CL beyond Day 35. Pregnancy Development: DefinitionsThe embryo is the name given to the new life developing in the uterus before the various body parts are recognizable. There are critical periods of development of the pregnancy: early embryonic death occurs before 40 days of gestation and perhaps even before the dam recognizes she is pregnant around days 14 to 16 of pregnancy. Early fetal death occurs before 150 days of gestation; thus, late fetal death occurs afterward. However, these definitions all are somewhat arbitrary and fetal death, resorption, and slipping all have more or less the same meaning as abortion. Incidence Of Embryonic DeathIn normal fertile mares, the fertilization rate is greater than 90%, which is comparable with other domestic species. The period of greatest embryonic death in subfertile mares occurs in the interval before pregnancy can be easily detected with ultrasound (Day 11), particularly at the time the embryo enters the uterus. Causes Of Early Embryonic DeathEED is multifactorial, in which external factors such as the environment and management as well as pathophysiological factors are involved. However, the evidence for many of these associations are anecdotal and frequently contradictory. External FactorsExternal factors include stress, nutrition, season of the year, climate, sire effects, and rectal palpation. Maternal stress due to severe pain, malnutrition, and transport has been implicated as a cause of EED. Far from being avoided, regular exercise is important during pregnancy, although during the latter half, forced exercise should be decreased, and during early pregnancy ambient weather conditions should be considered.
There is a limited amount of evidence to suggest that there are significant differences in the incidence of EED among stallions.
Rectal palpation and ultrasound examinations should be considered safe procedures when performed correctly, and recent evidence gives no indication that ultrasound examination is detrimental to the embryo. Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome (MRLS): First and last trimester fetal losses have been observed in recent years in large number of mares in Kentucky, particularly in 2001 and 2002.
Maternal FactorsA number of abnormal maternal factors, including hormone deficiencies and imbalances, uterine environment, age, and lactation have been implicated.
Hormonal Deficiencies And ImbalancesProgesterone is critical for the maintenance of pregnancy in mares. Progesterone supplementation is popular among some veterinarians and breeding farms, while others are skeptical of any benefit. Severe periglandular fibrosis of the uterine glands might reduce the chances of embryo survival. The reason for the apparent decreased fertility in mares mated at the foal heat is the hostile uterine environment due to delayed uterine involution or persistent endometritis. LactationMore pregnancy failures are detected in lactating than non-lactating (maiden or barren) mares. Embryonic FactorsGenetic and embryonic abnormalities are important to consider in relation to embryonic death.
Embryos recovered from subfertile mares are smaller and have more morphological defects than embryos from fertile mares. Twin PregnancyEarly embryonic losses in multiple pregnancies are greater than for single pregnancies.
The first two described only have limited application, and essentially the only method used is a clinical examination using ultrasound. Daily TeasingAssessing the pregnant mare's behavior by daily teasing from Day 12 to 24 should show aggressive rejection of the male.
Other factors which affect estrous behavior include being at pasture with very dominant mares, and stallion preferences.

To confuse matters further, some mares might have a defect in their systems that prevents the CL from disappearing on or around the 15th day. Measuring Hormone LevelsThe second method of pregnancy diagnosis is by measuring hormone concentrations in a blood (or urine) sample from the mare. EstrogenLater in the pregnancy, levels of the hormone estrogen can be measured in the blood and urine. Clinical ExaminationThe third method of pregnancy diagnosis is a clinical examination by a veterinarian, who performs rectal palpation and ultrasound of the internal organs. Between Days 60 to 100, the uterus is low within the abdomen and the fetus usually cannot be palpated; however, from four to five months and onward, it can be examined by touch. Mares usually are not scanned as early as Day 12 because it is possible to miss the pregnancy if scanning conditions are not ideal. Mares with cysts sometimes are thought to be more likely to have an increased incidence of EED. Another advantage of performing the first examination for pregnancy at Day 15 and not Day 18 is that a mare with a shortened luteal phase due to uterine infection can be detected. The early pregnancy is 20 mm in size and normally is fixed at the base of either the left or the right uterine horn. The conceptus is approximately 28 mm in size and the embryo is approximately 4 mm in length.
The embryo has grown to several millimeters in diameter and is visible on the line separating the pregnancy into two halves (Figure Nine). The fetus has descended approximately two-thirds of the way toward the lower part of the allantois (Figure Ten). The developing foal has recognizable features such as backbone, chest, head, and stomach (Figure Eleven). Timing Of Routine Pregnancy ScansThe first scan should be around 15 days after breeding to diagnose pregnancy early and to deal with a twin pregnancy.
Diagnosis Of EEDUnfortunately, many mares do not return to estrus for a long time following EED due to the continued production of hormones similar to that in a pregnant mare. The traditional method of detecting early pregnancy loss has been manual examination of the uterus by palpation via the rectum. As you read earlier, in most situations of EED, the mare continues to produce the same hormones she does if she is pregnant for a long period of time after she has lost the pregnancy.
The introduction and development of the use of ultrasonography during the 1980s has proved an invaluable tool in the diagnosis, features, and incidence of EED in the mare. EED occurs when an embryonic vesicle seen previously is not observed on two consecutive ultrasound examinations.
Ultrasonographic Features Of Early Embryonic DeathUltrasonographic scanning has provided a valuable tool in studying embryonic death.
The advice to the mare owner would be that if luteal regression has occurred, then conceptus loss might follow within the next 24 hours. Examination of the ovaries is important at every examination for pregnancy to provide information on the number and appearance of the CLs.
The major advance in recent years has been use of the ultrasound to diagnose EED more readily than was previously possible.
About The AuthorDr Jonathan F Pycock graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, University of London, in 1983 from where he obtained his PhD in 1988 for his thesis on "Breeding Problems in the Mare". This discovery was made as long ago as 1966 and has been confirmed by many subsequent studies. There are hormonal changes during pregnancy; in particular the hormone group progestins continue to be produced.
They are distinctive, irregularly shaped areas that develop in a ring at the base of the pregnant horn of the uterus. The organs all are formed and the foal is essentially a miniature replica of a term foal from about 40 days in the mare. However, a large study conducted recently found no differences among stallions in rates of EED. Not only were pregnancy losses involved, but other systemic problems such as pericarditis and in some cases unilateral uveitis were observed in the mares. Progesterone in oil (100 mg ) or altrenogest (35 mg; Regumate) are given daily until a CL is obvious on ultrasound examination and all uterine edema has disappeared.
Endometrial cytology and ultrasonic scanning of the genital tract of each mare might be more reliable methods on which to base a decision.
It is thought to have a higher incidence in maiden mares early in the breeding season and in mares with a young foal at foot.

The same is true for mares which undergo early embryonic death after Day 15 and prolong the lifespan of the primary CL.
Although small amounts of estrogen are produced by the follicles on the ovaries, these amounts are too small to interfere with the assay. The uterus swells due to the presence of a developing pregnancy and this can be monitored by rectal examination. An ultrasound scan can detect pregnancy as early as 9 days after ovulation, although detection by 11 days at the earliest is more common. This fact, together with the mobility and relatively small size of the concepti, make 14 to 15 days the optimal stage of pregnancy to diagnose twins and crush one.
The heartbeat normally can be detected as a rapid flickering movement in the middle of the embryo around this stage of pregnancy. For example, the embryo might first appear high in the dorsal part of the vesicle instead of its more usual site. Mares scanned in foal in the breeding season should be checked in the fall by internal examination to make sure they are still pregnant. However, because the pregnancy is smaller than it should be at this stage of pregnancy (i.e.
Intensive management (proper feeding, exercise, and avoiding stress) might accomplish the objective of getting a mare to carry a foal to term. He was then in private equine practice for 6 years working in the UK during their breeding season before heading to the southern hemisphere for their season. When it fixes, it assumes an irregular shape associated with the loss of its protective and capsule; the vesicle then enlarges longitudinally whilst the cross sectional area enlarges more slowly. It has a major role to play in early pregnancy in stimulating the ovaries to produce more progesterone, thereby preventing her from coming back into heat. The differences in the estimates are due to varying methods of pregnancy detection, and the animals studied. Although early pregnancy loss was most significant, there was also a higher incidence of later term pregnancy loss, with mares aborting with little or no classical indication of impending parturition and a high incidence of premature placental separation. Biorelease formulations of both progesterone and altrenogest are available (BET Pharmacy, Lexington, KY USA) which do not require daily treatment but provide a sustained release over a period of days. High estrogen levels from 100 days to approximately 2 weeks prior to term are a non-specific guide that the mare is in foal. This means that it was very difficult to make a reliable diagnosis of EED at an early stage by palpation alone. In 1994 he took a position as Associate Professor of Equine Reproduction at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Particularly if loss occurs after about 30 days, the mare might not return to estrus for some time, entering a state of false pregnancy. This suggests that an increased core temperature brought about by exercise under such ambient weather conditions during the early embryonic period may negatively impact embryo survival.
Whilst there he developed a special interest in artificial insemination with both chilled and frozen semen and assisted reproductive technologies such as embryo transfer and IVF. Although much remains to be learned about the syndrome, involvement of the eastern tent caterpillar seems to be directly associated with the syndrome. He was awarded his Diploma in Equine Stud Medicine in 1994 and in 1995 became an RCVS recognised Specialist in Equine Reproduction. He returned to the UK in January 1997 to begin Equine Reproductive Services, a first opinion and referral private equine practice based in Yorkshire. He has published many papers and several books and book chapters on a variety of equine reproductive topics and recently completed editing the major equine text "Current Therapy in Equine Reproduction".
He has lectured at meetings and given courses all over the world to both veterinary surgeons and breeders.
His main interests include ultrasonography, breeding the problem mare and artificial insemination.
He is actively involved in researching mechanisms of uterine clearance and what determines susceptibility to endometritis. Currently he is evaluating use of oxytocin and depot oxytocin as a post-breeding treatment for mares.

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