Man­ag­ing the new­born foal

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - FEATURE STORY / VET CORNER - with Amy Brown, VET­ERI­NAR­IAN

WE are in the midst of foal­ing sea­son, and although await­ing the birth of your foal brings much ex­cite­ment and an­tic­i­pa­tion, it can also be a very stress­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. The first 24 hours are crit­i­cal for foal sur­vival, and there­fore it is im­por­tant to be aware of the nor­mal de­vel­op­men­tal stages and when to in­ter­vene. Fail­ure of pas­sive trans­fer is one of the most com­mon dis­or­ders in foals, greatly in­creas­ing the risk of neona­tal in­fec­tion. The mare’s pla­centa pro­vides no trans­fer of im­mu­nity, and there­fore in­ges­tion of colostrum (the first milk) is crit­i­cal in the early stages to en­sure ad­e­quate an­ti­body in­take. The foal is ca­pa­ble of ab­sorb­ing an­ti­bod­ies via spe­cialised cells within the in­tes­tine, how­ever as these cells be­come re­placed by ma­ture cells, ab­sorp­tion de­creases, and ceases within 24-36 hours post birth. Af­ter this stage, if the foal has not re­ceived ad­e­quate an­ti­bod­ies via colostrum, a plasma trans­fu­sion may be re­quired. Signs of in­ad­e­quate trans­fer of im­mu­nity may in­clude weak­ness, in­creased lay­ing around, fail­ure to suckle and rapid breath­ing. If fail­ure of pas­sive trans­fer is sus­pected in your foal, a blood test can be per­formed to as­sess their an­ti­body lev­els. Other is­sues we may find in our neona­tal foals in­clude limb de­for­mi­ties, urine drib­bling from the naval (as­so­ci­ated with urine ac­cu­mu­la­tion in the ab­domen rather than the blad­der) and meco­nium im­paction (fail­ure to pass first fae­ces). Ideally, a healthy new­born foal should be stand­ing within the hour, uri­nat­ing within the first 8-12 hours and start­ing to pass meco­nium within 30 min­utes. If you are con­cerned about any of the above con­di­tions, do not hes­i­tate to con­tact your vet.

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