EQUUS - - Medical Front -

New­born foals have a bet­ter chance of sur­viv­ing to­day than ever be­fore, but cer­tain con­di­tions and sit­u­a­tions are still hard to over­come, ac­cord­ing to a ret­ro­spec­tive study from the Univer­sity of Illinois.

“About 3 per­cent of foals born in the United States be­come quite sick dur­ing their first 30 days of life and need more ex­ten­sive ve­teri­nary care, with a large per­cent­age of those go­ing to hos­pi­tal for treat­ment,” says Pam Wilkins, DVM, PhD, who re­viewed his­tor­i­cal and re­cent stud­ies to iden­tify the fac­tors that are most likely to af­fect or pre­dict foal mor­tal­ity rates. “In the 1980s we were look­ing at over­all sur­vival of 50 to 60 per­cent in very sick foals less than 30 days of age. Most of th­ese sick foals now sur­vive---about 80 per­cent.”

Dif­fi­cult births, called dys­to­cias, are not com­mon but are true emer­gen­cies when they do oc­cur, says Wilkins. About 10 per­cent of all births are dys­to­cias, al­though the in­ci­dence

North Amer­ica: Equine Prac­tice, rate is higher among Thor­ough-bred mares.

“Most dys­to­cias are pretty eas­ily cor­rectable by good foal­ing man­agers or vet­eri­nar­i­ans on the farm, and both mares and foals do just fine,” says Wilkins. “It is the dif­fi­cult ones---the ones that go on for more than 30 to 40 min­utes from when the mare’s wa­ter breaks--that are the big­gest prob­lem. The chance of los­ing the foal in­creases about 15 to 16 per­cent for each 10-minute de­lay in get­ting the foal out af­ter 30 to 40 min­utes.” She adds that hav­ing a plan in place in case of dys­to­cia--in­clud­ing trans­porta­tion to a clinic---in­creases the odds of sur­vival and is, there­fore, a crit­i­cal part of pre­par­ing for a foal’s ar­rival.

Foals born with or­tho­pe­dic con­di­tions are likely to sur­vive to­day, but their ath­letic ca­reers may be ham­pered, says Wilkins. “We can re­solve many of the [con­tracted ten­dons] more eas­ily now,” she ex­plains. “Bone and joint in­fec­tions are the big­gest lim­it­ing fac­tor, be­cause both hold a worse prog­no­sis for ath­letic ca­reer and sur­vival.”

Wilkins also found that sep­sis (body-wide in­fec­tion) and pre­ma­tu­rity still pose a sig­nif­i­cant threat of mor­tal­ity, with sur­vival rates im­prov­ing from 30 per­cent decades ago to be­tween 40 and 60 per­cent to­day.

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