VETzInsight

Newborn Foal Examination

August 31, 2009 (published) | September 19, 2018 (revised)

When foals are born, there are several areas that need to be addressed.  First of all, Drs. Chris Sanchez and Phoebe Smith indicate that all newborn foals should have their immunoglobulin level checked to make sure they received adequate colostrum from the mare to provide immunity against disease.  I usually check this level at 12 hours after birth so foals born at night are checked the next morning, and those born in the morning are checked late afternoon.  If the blood test indicates immunoglobulin levels are low, we feed colostrum and recheck or we give intravenous plasma.  Regardless, it is important to check the levels so you can make an accurate decision. 

Although we previously gave foals tetanus antitoxin, this is not recommended anymore unless the mare was not vaccinated for tetanus prior to foaling. Hopefully she was vaccinated.  An enema is commonly given to newborn foals immediately after birth to aid in passing the meconium or first stool.  I typically use sodium phosphate or Fleet enemas but many use dish soap in warm water.  It is also important to have your vet check for umbilical and inguinal hernias when they examine the foal at around 12 hours. 

If the farm has a history of infections in newborn foals, I usually treat them with antibiotic injections the first three days of life but this is controversial so ask what your vet for a preference.  Lastly, if you have a foal that seems uninterested in rising and nursing and is just not right, using the Madigan foal squeeze method is a good idea.  This involves placing a rope around the foal in a special pattern for 20 minutes. It has been shown to wake up some of these so called dummy foals.  Multiple YouTube videos of the Madigan foal squeeze method are available.


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