Foals – Part 1

Nurse Blog - Signs for concern with the newborn foal

New arrivals: knowing the normal from the abnormal

A normal foal will often stand within 1-2 hours of being born. They have a wobbly, base wide stance and will quickly seek out the udder, often starting at the mare’s elbow and searching out the darkest areas. Fluting of the tongue can be seen. It can be helpful to reduce the light levels in the box for the foal to find the udder more easily.

Examine your new foal from head to toe and watch its interaction with the mare, and how the mare is adjusting to her new arrival. Meconium (the foals first faeces), a dark green-brown colour is usually passed within the first 3 hours.

Foals produce lots of dilute urine due to their high milk diet, so they will need plenty of clean, fresh, deep bedding and high standards of care to prevent urine scolds and pressure sores developing from laying on wet, hard floors or bedding.

Lisa Newman

Signs for concern in a newborn foal, call the vet if any of the following do not occur in your new arrival:

Sat in sternal 5-10 minutes
Suck reflex 10-15 minutes
Time to stand 1-2 hours
Time to suck 3-4 hours

Umbilical cord care: Aim to provide a clean environment and use topical treatments sparingly to allow the cord to dry out. The use of dilute iodine sprays is still recommended.

Post-foaling complications

  • Normal uterine cramps ‘colic signs’ often resolves quickly especially as foal suckles
  • Immediate veterinary attention required:
    • Uterine (womb) haemorrhage – large volume of bright red blood seen / constant streams of blood
    • Uterine prolapse (rare, will be friable, keep as clean as possible use a plastic sheet underneath). This is when a mare pushes the uterus out, seen as a large soft tissue / spongy mass, often accompanied by constant straining from the mare. This is not to be confused with the placenta being expelled.
    • Colon torsion (twisting) from space left behind from the foal – seen as ‘classical’, but severe colic signs.
  • Veterinary attention required:
    • Perineal lacerations and fistula formations
    • Retained placenta / membranes. The placenta is usually expelled within 30 mins to a few hours after birth. If longer than 6hrs this can be classed as retained, which requires veterinary attention.
    • Metritis – seen as vaginal discharges, raised temperatures, dullness, inappetence
  • Contacting the practice is advised when noticing:
    • Laminitis – usually several days post foaling
    • Metritis – seen as vaginal discharges, raised temperatures, dullness, inappetence
    • Poor lactation
    • Agression

Look out for Part II next week, when Lisa covers Weaning and Worming of Foals

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