EQUUS - - Eq Medicalfro­nt -

New re­search from Aus­tria sug­gests that the stress of trans­port late in a mare’s preg­nancy can cause her to de­liver her foal pre­ma­turely.

Foal­ing is nor­mally trig­gered when the mat­u­ra­tion of a healthy fe­tus causes lev­els of the hor­mone cor­ti­sol to rise. But cor­ti­sol is also as­so­ci­ated with stress, and re­searchers hy­poth­e­sized that in­creased pro­duc­tion of the hor­mone in re­sponse to other stim­uli, such as ship­ping, might in­flu­ence the tim­ing of foal­ing.

To de­ter­mine the in­flu­ence of trans­porta­tion-as­so­ci­ated stress on foal­ing, re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Vet­eri­nary Medicines in Vi­enna shipped a group of 12 preg­nant mares for three hours. An­other group of three preg­nant mares re-mained in the barn to serve as a con­trol group. At the start of the study, re­searchers de­ter­mined that all mares were close to foal­ing based on pH mea­sure­ments of mam­mary se­cre­tions (colostrum).

Blood­work on all mares re­vealed that the trans­ported group had higher lev­els of cor­ti­sol com­pared to the non-trans­ported con­trols. Four mares in the “stressed” group foaled within 12 hours of trans­port and eight foaled within 51 hours. The mares who were not shipped did not foal for at least 88 to 144 hours (three to six days) af­ter the start of the study.

The re­searchers note that al­most half of the foals from the trans­ported group had in­com­plete os­si­fi­ca­tion of the bones of their knees and hocks, an in­di­ca­tor of pre­ma­tu­rity. They advise that trans­port­ing late-stage ges­ta­tion mares be done only un­der vet­eri­nary guid­ance.

Ref­er­ence: “Road trans­port of late preg­nant mares ad­vances the on­set of foal­ing,” Jour­nal of Equine Vet­eri­nary Science, July 2018

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