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«pregnancy and foaling parameters, newborn foal exam, the importance of colostrum, risk factors associated with the mare and newborn foal, and common ...»

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If the foal is sick enough to require supplemental feeding to support it, the first choice is obviously the mare's own milk. Other good choices include Foal Lac and Mare's Match. These are good supplements, but may cause diarrhea. Nutrifoal is a very good milk replacer with less digestive upset, but it is very expensive. Goat's milk and cow's milk (with 1-tsp. corn syrup added to every 8 oz.) may also be used. Constipation is a common side effect with goat's milk. Foals typically need to be fed 10% of their body weight per day and should gain one to three pounds per day. For example, a 100# foal needs about 12 oz. every two hours. If the foal needs special nutritional support, it may be necessary to provide food through an indwelling nasogastric tube. If the foal needs to be fed intravenously, Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) is an exceptional product. It can be cost prohibitive with prices ranging $300-500/day, and must be done at a referral clinic.

Durango Equine Veterinary Clinic 5 of 7 Neonatal Maladjustment Syndrome (NMS) Foals with NMS are commonly referred to as a "dummy" foals, wanderers or barkers. It is a temporary or permanent condition caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain. This usually occurs secondary to dystocia, but may also be associated with septicemia or a brain disorder. Signs of NMS include lack of the suckle reflex, lack of affinity to the mare, disorientation, and irritability (grinding teeth, sneezing, wandering). If it is severe the foal may seizure or become comatose. Treatment may include nasal oxygen, mannitol, 400-800IU of daily vitamin E, naloxone, DMSO, antibiotics, and nutritional support. The foal is often treated concurrently for septicemia. The window of opportunity of treatment and potential recovery is typically 5-7 days.

Neonatal Isoerythrolysis (NIE) NIE is an immune mediated hemolytic condition inherited from the stallion. The mare produces antibodies against the foal's red blood cells, which are concentrated in the mare's first milk, the colostrum. The foal is normal at birth. But after ingesting the antibodies in the colostrum, these antibodies attach and destroy its red blood cells. The foal typically shows signs of weakness, jaundice, and anemia within 12-24 hours. Treatment includes a whole blood transfusion if it is diagnosed early enough. Prevention is key. If the mare has a history of NIE foals, the mare can be tested 2-3 weeks prior to the foaling date. If the fetus is considered at risk, prevention is vital. The foaling should be attended. The newborn foal should be muzzled the first 24 hours and fed an alternative source of colostrum. The mare's milk should be stripped (milked) out the first day. This condition is rarely seen in maiden mares, and is more commonly seen in foals when the mare is bred back to the same stallion carrier.

Ruptured Bladder A ruptured bladder typically occurs during the foaling process. As the foal is pushed through the birth canal, the bladder may tear internally inside the foal. This condition is most common in colts (90%). The foal typically appears normal at birth. Depending on the size of the tear, the foal will show signs of uroperitoneum (urine in the abdomen) between days 1 and 7. Signs include colic, depression, abdominal distension, and urine dribbling. The foal may or may not be able to urinate.

Some foals can urinate, but tend to strain and don't have a steady stream. Diagnosis is based on physical exam, abdominocentesis (belly tap to take a fluid sample from the abdomen), blood work, and ultrasound or radiographs. Treatment is surgery in conjunction with fluids and antibiotics.

Failure of Passive Transfer (FPT) Failure of passive transfer is the failure of the transfer of immunoglobulins (IgG). This means the foal's IgG levels are less than 400 mg/dl. IgG levels between 400-800 mg/dl are considered partial failure of passive transfer. Poor colostrum quality, failure to ingest enough colostrum, poor mammary gland development, or the mare leaking the colostrum before foaling can cause this. If the foal's IgG 400 mg/dl, the foal has a 25% chance that it will contract a disease if exposed. If the foal's IgG 200 mg/dl, the foal has a 75% chance it will contract an environmental disease if exposed.

Durango Equine Veterinary Clinic 6 of 7 The Key is Prevention Prevention is vital. It includes properly vaccinating and deworming your pregnant mare. Properly preparing for the newborn's arrival includes having adequate protection against adverse weather conditions, a clean area for the mare to foal, and knowing your mare's foaling history. It is especially important to be present during the foaling process, so that if any problems arise they can be addressed immediately. I recommend observing the foal to be sure that the foal stands, nurses, and behaves normally. Foals are wonderful and unique. But unlike adults, their status can change very quickly. Being aware of your foal's health is the best preventative measure you can take to ensure a healthy foal (and lower vet bills)!


Dr. Hulse graduated from Purdue University and has served for the past 8 years as an associate at the Durango Equine Veterinary Clinic in Buckeye, Arizona. The clinic serves as a specialized equine breeding operation using fresh, cooled and frozen semen from around the country and internationally. Dr.Hulse's specialty and focus are the foals produced at this clinic and the surrounding rural area.

20908 West Durango Street * Buckeye, Arizona 85326 * Phone (623)386-2928 * Fax (623)386-7914

Durango Equine Veterinary Clinic 7 of 7

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