You have waited about a year for your foal, make sure you get him off to a healthy start! The first few hours of a foal’s life have a major influence on the animal’s future health. Whether this is your first foal or you’re a foal veteran, plan to have your veterinarian perform a thorough physical exam on both the mare and foal the day the foal is born. Make sure to save the placenta in a bucket or bag for the veterinarian to inspect. If the mare does not pass her entire placenta within 12-24 hours, she can become sick and develop laminitis. [emember_protected custom_msg=”Click here and register now to read the rest of the article!”]
A foal should stand within one hour and nurse within two hours of life. Once he can stand, you need to make sure the foal is actually suckling from the mare. He can fool you if you don’t take a close look. Foals feed frequently and should have received one to two pints of quality colostrum within 6-12 hours of birth. Colostrum is essential for the transference of maternal antibodies to the foal in order to provide protection against disease. It is highly recommended that your veterinarian check the foal through a simple blood test to determine if he has received the appropriate amount of antibodies from the mare.
The umbilical stump should be dipped twice per day with dilute chlorhexidine/iodine solution for two to three days, until the stump is dry. Gently check the area daily with clean hands for signs of heat/swelling.
In the first 24 hours, meconium (first feces) should be passed. These feces are a dark brown/black color and may be pelleted or a paste consistency. Feces after this should be light brown and soft. If the foal appears uncomfortable, straining to defecate or hasn’t passed feces within 12 hours, talk with your veterinarian about giving an enema.
Monitor your foal closely in the first few weeks of life and keep him in an area with plenty of shade. Young foals cannot regulate their body temperature and can get overheated and die. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your veterinarian.
column by DR. KATIE HENNESSY
BIO: Dr. Katie Hennessy graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008 with a degree in large animal health and equine medicine. After completing an advanced internship and working as an Associate Veterinarian, she is currently practicing at Polk Equine, LLC. Her expertise ranges from small and exotic creatures to large animals, specializing in equine medicine.[/emember_protected]