Bovis ISSN 2398-2993

Abortion: submitting samples

Contributor(s): Alan Murphy , Alessandro Seguino

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  • Bovine abortion is defined as the loss of a fetus aged between 50 and 270 days gestation. It is a distinct clinical syndrome from stillbirth though overlaps do occur in terms of diagnostic investigation. 
  • It is well established that the diagnostic rate for bovine abortions is lower than that compared to other post mortem investigations. The reasons for this are multiple:
    • Non-infectious causes cannot be readily assessed in the large majority of cases.
    • Autolysis and / or predation of a carcase reduces the diagnostic value.
    • The placenta is only presented for examination in a minority of cases and so any placental pathology cannot be established. Placental insufficiency without overt fetal pathology is a recognized cause of fetal death. 
  • Investigation of an abortion event requires a detailed and comprehensive approach. Abortion: investigating an outbreak
  • There are a large number of infectious and non-infectious etiologies recognized Abortion and stillbirths: overview.
  • In conjunction with this a number of the infectious agents involved are encompassed by World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). There may be requirement at an individual national or regional level to examine material for other agents in addition to these.  
  • As with any such investigation, a valuable component can be the examination of the aborted fetus and its associated placenta.
  • The collection of a range of suitable laboratory samples may be critical to a case, depending on the findings of the overall investigation. Examining more than one specimen if available is advised to ensure the findings and as such conclusions are consistent. 
  • This article provides guidance as to the samples to take.

Examining the fetus and placenta

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Further Reading


Refereed Papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Otter A & Davies I (2015) Disease features and diagnostic sampling of cattle and sheep post-mortem examinations. In Practice 37, 293-305.
  • Barkallah M et al (2014) Survey of Infectious Etiologies of Bovine Abortion during Mid to Late Gestation in Dairy Herds. PLoS One 9(3), e91549 PubMed Full Article.
  • Cabell E (2007) Bovine Abortion: Aetiology and Investigation. In Practice 29, 455-463.

Other sources of information

  • Bovine Abortion Necropsy Techniques. Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory:
  • Murray R D (2015) Abortion and Perinatal Mortality in Cattle. In: Bovine Medicine. 3rd Edition. Chapter 15.
  • Murray R D (2006) Practical Approach to Infectious Bovine Abortion Diagnosis. World Buiatrics Conference, Nice.