The Importance of New Foal Exams
Apr 26, 2011
Newborn foals come into the world with no antibodies to fight off disease or infection. They absorb these antibodies through ingestion of colostrum during the first 12 - 18 hours of life. There are several reasons that a foal may not get enough colostrum. It is possible that the mare may not produce enough, or that she may have leaked the colostrum before the foal was born. Or the foal may have difficulty nursing early in life.
Part of a foal exam includes pulling blood for an IGG test to ensure that the foal achieved high enough levels of antibodies to protect them from life threatening diseases. Foals that do not receive at least 800 mg/dl of antibodies are considered to have failure of passive transfer. Treating these foals with plasma administration (photo above) will improve their disease resistance.
The physical exam also identifies many foals that are born with or develop septicemia shortly after birth. Septicemia means infection is being spread through the blood to essentially every organ of the body. These infections can cause death if not caught early and treated aggressively. We often perform a CBC (Complete Blood Count) to identify early cases of septicemia.
The new foal exam also lets us check the heart, lungs, temperature, and conformation of new foals. The umbilicus is always given special attention and the foal checked for hernias or congenital defects. This is also an excellent time to check the mare for any post foaling problems such as mastitis or retained placenta. Some mares may have tears that need attention.
The doctors at Conley and Koontz Equine Hospital highly recommend and perform many new foal exams each week. High risk mares are often brought to the hospital for foaling. These mares are observed 24 hours a day with a veterinarian always in the hospital. Oxygen, surgery suites, and 24 hour laboratory access insure that your mare and foal receive the highest quality care possible.