Recto-vaginal Fistula

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Also Known As

Opening between rectal and vaginal wall


A recto-vaginal fistula is an opening or perforation through the wall, or septum, between the rectum and the vagina of a mare. Although the condition may occur as a congenital abnormality in a foal, it most often occurs as a result of an accidental perforation during the foaling process.


  • Appearance of fecal and urinal incontinence
  • Fecal matter in the horse's urine
  • Bleeding


A recto-vaginal fistula results when a perforation of the recto-vaginal septum occurs during foaling or as the result of a breeding injury or an accident.

A mal-presented or oversized foal may perforate the septum with a foot or cause it to tear. Manual manipulation during parturition or violent expulsive efforts by the mare may also cause a perforation.

In some cases, the condition may be a congenital abnormality that may or may not be correctable, depending on the physical state and condition of the animal.


Care and attention during difficult deliveries to reposition the foal or prevent a foot from penetrating the septum may be possible. Make sure that anyone doing a rectal examination is well-qualified and that the mare is properly sedated or restrained.


Surgical repair is usually needed to repair the perforation and restore normal functions. Vaginal-fecal contamination poses dangers to the health of the mare and a veterinarian may recommend antibiotics or other treatment to reduce the chances of infection.

An experienced veterinarian can determine the best surgical techniques to be used, based on the particular condition of the mare.

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EquiMed Staff

EquiMed staff writers team up to provide articles that require periodic updates based on evolving methods of equine healthcare. Compendia articles, core healthcare topics and more are written and updated as a group effort. Our review process includes an important veterinarian review, helping to assure the content is consistent with the latest understanding from a medical professional.