Meconium Impaction in Foals

March 26, 2007 (published)

The first stool that is produced by a new born foal is made up of meconium. Meconium is made up of digested fetal fluid, gastrointestinal tract secretions and bile. It is usually dark greenish brown or black and can be very firm in consistency. This meconium is usually passed in the first 3 to 4 hours after birth, and after it is passed the stool becomes softer and light yellow to orange in color. Meconium should be passed in the first 12 to 36 hours of life, so all foals should be monitored to make sure they have passed it. A problem occurs if the foal is impacted by meconium, which Dr. Patrick McCue indicates occurs in around 1 out of 100 foals. This results in abdominal pain, straining to have a bowel movement, depression, and reluctance to nurse.

In foals who have not passed meconium by 12 hours, an enema is indicated to aid in passage. The easiest and most common enema used is a sodium phosphate enema available as most pharmacies. These enemas are easy to use and are routinely used in many foals immediately after birth to aid in prevention of a problem. The tip of the enema is inserted in the foal's rectum and the entire content of the 4 ounce bottle is gently squeezed into the rectum. Dr. McCue indicates you should not use more than 2 treatments in 24 hours. If this treatment is ineffective, your vet should be contacted. A warm soapy water enema can also be used, but must be used carefully and by your veterinarian with a special catheter. If this is ineffective, an enema consisting of acetylcysteine can be used that is marketed under the trade name of E-Z Pass Enema Kit. Meconium impaction can be a serious problem in foals and they should be observed after birth to make sure it is passed.

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