Post-Foaling Complications in MaresBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · February 3, 2012
Delivering a foal goes well for many mares, but problems may occasionally show up shortly after the foal is born. Older mares are somewhat more likely to have serious complications, but an emergency can develop after any birth, especially if parturition has been long or difficult.
Tearing of the uterine artery may result in a slow leak of blood or a much larger rupture with extensive blood loss. Uterine artery tears are fatal in about 50% of affected mares. Signs that may be seen soon after birth or up to three days later are pain, rapid but weak pulse, and pale membranes. Treatment includes keeping the mare as quiet as possible and using medications to minimize shock and relieve pain.
Uterine tears may also cause pain, but a more serious problem is peritonitis caused by leakage of fluids into the abdominal cavity. Large tears can usually be surgically repaired, and infection can be treated by aggressive antibiotic and anti-inflammatory therapy.
Prolapse of the uterus (uterine tissue has been pulled out through the vagina) is somewhat more common in draft mares but can occur in any mare that has had a long, difficult delivery. A veterinarian can replace the uterus, and the sooner this is done, the less trauma and shock will result. The mare should be kept as quiet as possible until the veterinarian arrives, and care should be taken to keep the protruding tissue clean and undamaged.
The strain of foaling may result in small colon tears or cecal rupture. Though these are not common, they are serious problems and must be treated as quickly as possible. Colic signs are not unusual after foaling and can be caused by internal bleeding, contractions of the uterus, or torsions (twists) of the intestine as the organs move back into place after the foal is born.
Mare managers should watch for any signs of colic or pain in a postpartum mare for several days after she gives birth. Because even mild signs can be an indication of a more serious problem, a veterinary examination is recommended to find the cause of the mare’s discomfort and begin treatment if necessary.