Hospital Delivers Care for Special-Needs Foals

Foals and Mares Sometimes Need Help

Some species continue to live when people seek refuge and practice social seclusion.

Spring is foal season at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s equine medical and surgical service. Professor of horse medicine and expert in equine neonatology Dr. Pamela Wilkins provides insights on a few instances she has managed while under quarantine.

Recognizing Baby

According to Dr. Wilkins, it’s not unusual to see a young mare struggle with a newborn foal.
Mares may fail to bond with or outright reject a foal due to the discomfort and stress of first-time births. In these circumstances, Dr. Wilkins still holds out some hope because “sometimes with just a little persuading at home they may come around.”
A mare whose foal was born approximately a week ago was effectively stimulated by hormonal manipulation to activate the bonding drive. While the foal was delivered at home, the mare had a rough birthing process known as dystocia. The delivery canal was torn, and the mother and child were sent to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

This horse fell in love with her child after receiving assistance from equine critical care veterinarians.

Dr. Wilkins continues, “We gave her prostaglandin, which helped her sweat and go through some of the sensations associated with birth. “We used a towel to clean the baby off after absorbing her perspiration with it. She recognized the foal as her own when it was returned to her.

“Now, they are ‘in love’ with each other,” Dr. Wilkins continues. The two are anticipated to return home soon.

Missing First Milk

The newborn foal is susceptible to a multitude of medical issues when the dam is unable to take care of him. A significant risk of infection affects foals that do not get colostrum, or first milk, from their dam.
Only shortly after giving birth does the mare produce colostrum, which is rich in antibodies that fight infections. For the foal to benefit from the immunity given down from its mother during the first 12 hours or so of life, it must feed successfully. When a foal does not receive colostrum from its dam, according to Dr. Wilkins, “we inject antibody-rich plasma and frequently employ antibiotics to prevent opportunistic infections.”

A radiograph reveals an infection in the joint of this foal. The radiograph is taken in the picture at the top of the page.

The Veterinary Teaching Hospital is now caring for a foal that its dam rejected. The foal was brought to the hospital unconscious and in extremely poor condition after its owners struggled to care for it at home. The foal was able to stand up after receiving medical care for a week.

The foal, however, is currently receiving treatment for an infected joint because it was not given colostrum as a baby. Fortunately, it feels considerably better and is anticipated to make a full recovery.

A Case of Twins

Horses seldom have twins. According to Dr. Wilkins, the twins are often not able to be carried to term in horses, and if they are, the twins are typically not able to live.

Early in pregnancy, veterinarians use ultrasonography to check for twins, although it can often be difficult to distinguish between two embryos in the mare’s uterus. If the mare carries the twins to term, problems during delivery are sometimes experienced by her because the foals’ legs entangle while they are being delivered.

Recently, twin foals that had had Caesarean section delivery were brought to the hospital. Unfortunately, the mare had to be put to death without recovering after surgery because of the extent of her injuries. The aggregate weight of the 12-hour-old preterm foals when they arrived did not match that of a single normal-term foal. The filly twin has survived and is putting up a battle, while the colt twin passed away within a day.

The female twin foal that survived is displaying a resilient personality. While physicians assess her bones’ capacity to support her weight, she is not permitted to stand.

Her condition is being carefully monitored by Dr. Wilkins. Although her bones have not yet entirely calcified, she notes that her body’s functions are functioning normally. The bones might be crushed if she stands on her legs and bears all of her weight, according to the doctors.

This little filly is getting a cart to assist her go around thanks to cooperation between the equestrian faculty and rehabilitation services. The equine medical care team, led by Dr. Wilkins, is optimistic. Although it is still too early to predict whether she will live or die, she is receiving the best care available, and we are all pulling for her success.

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