Although the weather feels like it is still winter, we are actually in the middle of the foaling season! The past couple of weeks we have seen many happy, healthy foals for mare and foal checks, the best part of this job! However, we have also seen some foals with health problems, some very serious. It’s important to remember a foal is programmed not to show any signs of illness or weakness, so it doesn’t attract the attention of predators.
This makes it difficult to spot signs that your foal is ill. Important signs to look out for are;
1) Changes in behavior of the foal
2) Not getting up when stimulated
3) Not drinking regularly
4) Showing signs of colic
5) Not following the mare around
you can look at the mare’s udder to see if the foal has been drinking recently. In the very early stages of a foals life it is vital to recognize that the foal is ill as soon as possible, as they are born without any energy reserves and will deteriorate very very quickly if they stop drinking from the mare.
I was called out by a concerned recently, the foal had been suckling and her behavior had been normal at first, but a couple of hours after the birth the foal started to lose interest in the mare and was very lethargic. This alert owner had spotted the difference in the foals behavior and called us out for an examination. After my clinical
exam I decided the foal was suffering from perinatal asphyxia syndrome, meaning it had been deprived of oxygen during the birth. It is typical for these foals that they look fine initially, but then slowly deteriorate to the point where they are not suckling anymore and
become very ill. This specific foal was very precious to the owner, so we decided to refer it to a large hospital so it could be monitored 24/7 and they could give it a permanent feeding tube, as the foal had stopped drinking. Thanks to the quick response of the owner
and the intensive therapy it received the foal is now back home and doing really well. We all love a happy ending!
This case also illustrates the importance of having the vet out after the foal is born for a mare and foal check, as subtle signs of illness will be picked up during the clinical exam of the foal. A lot of conditions in foals can be treated on the yard with good result, but the sooner treatment can be started the better!
PS if your mare is expecting a foal and you want some help and advice about the birth, here at Simply Horses we have a very useful foal package, consisting of detailed information about the birth process,
tips on what to do and what not to do, a discount voucher for a mare and foal check by one of our vets and lots of other goodies!