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Foaling problems, late udder development...
Foaling problems, late udder development...

CURRENT AND SEASONAL CONCERNS

This has been a tough week for the foaling mares.  We had the unfortunate occasion to deliver a dead foal that was being presented with its head down and both front legs back.  These deliveries are always difficult due to the mare’s natural tendency to strain once any part of the foal is in the pelvic canal.  She is used to delivering the foal in minutes following several very strong contractions.  These contractions are the result of all the strength the mare can generate and can really complicate the delivery process.

Once it is determined the foal is dead, our objective is to deliver it with the least amount of trauma to the mare.  The pelvic canal, vagina, cervix, and vulva will often bruise and swell from manipulation and delivery of the foal.  This bruising can lead to breakdown and erosion of the tissue, leading in extreme cases to necrosis of the vulva and scarring of the vagina and cervix.

This horror story is not to frighten the brood mare owners.  Fortunately, problems during foaling are uncommon.  Other than your normal due diligence (such as placing a cot in the tack room for the wife and an alarm clock to remind her to make periodic checks), there is little else to predict or prevent problems!  Most of the time we just find the foal up and nursing, leading us to suspect the mare watched us return to the tack room and immediately laid down and delivered.

A mare we delivered here at the clinic did present an interesting situation.  This 14 year old mare was presented to the clinic for foaling.  It was to be her first foal and she had no udder development when trailored in two weeks before her due date.  We started her on domperidone and her udder quickly began to fill.  After ten days of treatment her udder was sufficiently filled.

She delivered at midnight with some assistance.  After a few anxious moments figuring out what to do about this wet little creature that was stumbling all over the stall, the mare settled down to being a good mother.  The next morning the foal had a yellow stool, indicating he was receiving sufficient milk.  As a routine precaution we collected a blood sample to test his antibody level. The level was so low it barely registered.

Thanks to the warning from this test we administered a commercial IgG product.  When we retested the foal six hours later, the antibody level was near the top concentration.  This is a situation where one could easily have assumed all was well since the signs indicated the foal was receiving adequate milk.  Only after the foal developed navel ill (seen as swollen and inflamed joints) and a systemic infection, all within the first week, would we have been suspicious there had not been a transfer of antibodies.  We suspect the mare developed milk so late there was not time to produce colostrum.  All seems to be going well with the foal at this time!

We also had the unfortunate task this week of delivering a dead foal that was in the ninth month of pregnancy.  The first sign the owner noticed of a problem was a piece of tissue suspended from the vulva.  The owner had not administered the rhinopneumonitis (Pneumabort-K) vaccine at 5, 7, and 9 months.  Without further diagnostic help, we would put this at the top of the differential diagnosis when determining the cause of death for the foal.  This is an older mare and she is having a difficult time clearing her uterus of the fetal fluids.

Next column we will discuss rabies, as our county is now under a rabies alert.  I know I promised this the last couple of articles but I guess I had my fingers crossed!

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