Have you got a new foal on the way? Organising a foal health check is a must for all of your new four legged friends. It is important that newborn foals receive a proper veterinary examination within 24hours of birth, especially as foals can deteriorate quickly if certain issues go undetected.
So what do we do at a neonatal foal check to ensure that you have a healthy foal?
1. Physical Exam - We perform a thorough physical exam of the foal. We check its demeanour, heart, vital signs, nursing behavior and examine for the presence of any congenital abnormalities or signs of infection
2. Check the Umbilicus - We thoroughly examine the umbilicus (navel) for any heat, moisture, swelling or enlargement.
3. Perform A Blood Test - We perform a blood test to determine the foal’s levels of IgG antibodies. This step is especially important as it helps us to determine that the foal has received adequate immunity from its dam in the form of colostrum. If the IgG levels in the blood are inadequate, the foal may not have enough immunity to prevent potentially fatal infections.
4. Check Meconium has passed - We check that the foal has passed faeces, particularly meconium (the foals first faeces: dark, brown firm faecal balls). All meconium should be passed within 24 hours of birth. Meconium impaction occurs when the foal is unable to pass all of its meconium and it needs to be treated appropriately.
5. Check for normal urination - We also check that the foal is urinating normally.
6. Check Ribs & Overall Conformation - We examine the foal for any potential rib fractures that may have been sustained during birth and look at the foals overall conformation, including any leg issues that may need addressing quickly or managing (ie - contractions, weaknesses).
A thorough check should pick up any abnormalities in a foal so that they can be addressed. After your foal’s examination it is still important to contact your vet ASAP if you notice any of the following problems:
- Reduced suckling
- A wet/leaking umbilicus
- Swelling of any joints and/or the umbilicus
- Abnormalities in urination or defecation
Early intervention is vital with a newborn foal, as undetected issues can cause them to deteriorate quickly. If in doubt, always call your veterinarian.