FOALS! What you need to know NOW.

It’s that time of year when joy and cuteness enter the world in the form of a long-legged, lanky adorable foal. Are you prepared for ensuring a healthy foal delivery?

Tips & timeframes from Drs. Krista Estell and Elizabeth MacDonald of our neonatal intensive care unit:

The first few hours of a foal’s life are critical. A newborn foal can deteriorate very rapidly, requiring immediate medical intervention.

A newborn foal should:

  breathe independently within seconds of birth
  be on their feet within one hour
  be nursing on the mare within two hours

Your primary care veterinarian should evaluate your newborn foal twelve to eighteen hours post foaling to complete a comprehensive physical exam.

Blood should be collected within twelve to eighteen hours for an immunoglobulin g test (IgG) to make sure that the foal has received adequate amounts of immunoglobulins from the mare’s colostrum. These immunoglobulins are essential for protecting the foal from infection during the first few weeks of life. If the IgG concentration is low then the foal should receive a plasma transfusion to provide the vital antibodies to protect the foal from infections. A complete blood count and a serum amyloid A can also be performed to detect early signs of infection.

Early recognition of abnormalities is essential in the neonate. Call your veterinarian immediately if the foal is struggling to stand or has not nursed for a couple of hours.

Other signs that can indicate problems are weakness or lethargy, milk draining from the nostrils, increased respiration, colic, diarrhea, enlarged umbilicus, swollen joints or lameness.

Some foals can be assisted on the farm and can successfully recover, but others may need to be hospitalized to properly manage problems. Further diagnostics such as more bloodwork, ultrasound or radiographs may be required to evaluate the foal and address issues. Early referral to an equine hospital for proper management has a significant impact on a foal’s chance of survival.

Close attention and monitoring should also be directed towards the mare, who should pass the placenta within three hours and show acceptance of her new charge!

Top of the checklist: do not wait to call your veterinarian if either foal or mare are displaying issues.
When it comes to foals, time is critical.

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The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center (EMC) is a premier, full-service equine health facility conveniently located at Morven Park in Leesburg, Virginia.  As an integral part of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and Virginia Tech, the EMC offers an array of cutting-edge diagnostic and therapeutic technologies and veterinary expertise to provide innovative and cost-effective care for your horse.  The EMC offers a broad range of general and advanced specialty services by appointment as well as comprehensive 24/7 emergency services. State of the art technology with cutting-edge expertise…

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