The most frequent causes for which foals are referred in emergency: foaling follow-up, prematurity, dysmaturity, lack of immunity, colic, diarrhoea, omphalitis, angular deviation/contraction of limbs, respiratory pathologies.
Immediate care, intensive and adapted care according to the condition.
Foaling follow-up: It is possible to carry out foaling follow-up in the clinic. For this, the mare should be brought in ideally 2-3 weeks before foaling so that she can acclimatise to her new environment. A trans-abdominal ultrasound to visualise the foetus will be carried out directly on arrival. The mare is then observed every day to monitor the imminent signs of foaling, for example the appearance of wax on the udders. A team is also present at night to assist with foaling and to help with any difficult foaling situations. Once the foal is born, regular general examinations are carried out and the transfer of immunity between the mother and the foal is tested with a blood test.
Prematurity: A foal is considered premature if it is born before 320 days gestation. The foal's systems are not fully mature and it may require intensive care.
Dysmature: A dysmature foal is one that is born at full term but still shows signs of immaturity such as a bulging forehead, long hair, foetal horn etc. As with a premature foal, dysmature foals often require intensive care.
Immunity deficiency: The foal does not have antibodies for its immune defence at birth. By the time it produces its own antibodies, it is protected by those contained in the colostrum (first milk) of the mother. If the foal does not drink quickly after birth, or if the colostrum is of poor quality or produced in small quantities, the foal may lack immunity. The foal will therefore be susceptible to infection and will require the administration of colostrum orally during the first few hours after birth or intravenously containing these antibodies.
Colic: The foal, like an adult horse, may show signs of colic. However, there are causes of colic specific to foals such as meconium impaction, bladder rupture etc.
Diarrhoea: the presence of a more or less severe decrease in the consistency of faeces in the foal is very common. Sometimes this does not cause an alteration in its general condition. Nevertheless, close monitoring is necessary and in the case of a decrease in appetite, despondency and the presence of frequent liquid diarrhoea it is very important to contact the attending veterinarian. The foal may need to be hospitalised and/or put on a drip to replace the water and electrolyte losses caused by the diarrhoea.
Omphalitis: The umbilical cord should be specifically monitored and cared for after delivery until it is dry and gradually reduces in size.
This is a potential route of entry for germs. In the event of infection, and if the foal does not have good immune coverage due to a failure to transfer passive immunity, serious and potentially fatal complications (e.g. septicaemia, septic arthritis, etc.) may follow.
Angular deviation/limb contracture: Foals may be born with angular deviations or limb contractures which can be very severe and prevent them from even standing up. This needs to be treated quickly and the most appropriate treatment (bandages, splints, surgery...) will be advised according to the type of contracture and angular deviation.
Respiratory diseases: Foals are susceptible to respiratory infections, especially if they suffer from a lack of passive immunity transfer. Some agents are specific to them such as rhodococcosis in slightly older foals.
Intensive care adapted to the condition: Foals require very close monitoring as their vital parameters can change very quickly. When their condition is critical, they can benefit from intensive care and extensive treatment to stabilise their condition and treat the disease.