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It is important to know what is normal in the newborn foal so any problems can be easily
identified and promptly treated.
After birth, a foal should:
the mare to nurse
It is important the foal nurses properly in the first 12 hours, as this is the time when antibodies (immunoglobulins - IgG) are transferred from the mare’s milk (colostrum) to the foal. This transfer provides the foal with passive immunity until its own immune system is established at 8-12 weeks. If the foal does not receive adequate levels of IgG from the colostrum they can be predisposed to infection. A simple IgG blood test should be performed between 12-24 hours to ensure adequate transfer has occurred.
The foal’s umbilicus can be a potential entry site for infection. Once the umbilical cord ruptures it is advisable to dip the foal’s umbilicus into a solution of 0.5% chlorhexidine or iodine. This should then be done daily for at least 3 days post foaling. The umbilicus should dry out within 2-3 days and fall off on its own after 5-6 weeks. There should be no discharge from the umbilicus. Swelling around the umbilicus where it attaches to the abdomen can be a sign of infection or herniation and should be investigated.
Meconium (foal’s first manure) should be passed within 12 hours. This is usually dark in colour with variable consistency. To aid in the passing of meconium an enema can be given once the foal is standing. A foal should also be urinating normally within 12 hours. Constant straining or unproductive straining while defecating or urinating can indicate a problem.
Other signs that may indicate a problem with your foal include:
It is recommended that a veterinarian examines the mare and foal (and placenta) 12-24 hours post foaling to assess for any abnormalities or potential issues. If you feel at any time there is an issue with the health of your foal or mare, contact your veterinarian to discuss your concerns.