Watch for Signs of Problems in Newborn FoalsBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · December 22, 2010
Newborn foals may be affected by a number of problems, some of which have similar signs. If the foal “just doesn't seem right,” any of the following could be the cause of abnormal or depressed behavior:
Oxygen Deprivation Anything that reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the brain before, during, or just after birth can rapidly affect brain cell function. The problem can be depleted blood flow, or normal blood flow with depleted oxygen, or a combination of these factors. Fescue toxicosis in the mare, a prolonged and difficult delivery, or compression of the umbilical cord can compromise delivery of oxygen to the foal.
Infection Diarrhea from a Salmonella infection and pneumonia caused by Rhodococcus equi frequently plague foals.
Injury Broken ribs are not uncommon in large foals, and shock and pain can lead to unresponsiveness.
Hypothermia While most foals are able to maintain sufficient body temperature, some may need help staying warm.
Poor Nutrition The mare may not be producing milk, or may not be allowing the foal to nurse.
Discomfort The foal may have ulcers, lameness, internal deformities, or other sources of pain.
It's not uncommon for a foal to seem alert and healthy in the first hours after birth, but within a couple of days or even a week later, signs indicate that all is not well. A thorough veterinary examination is necessary to determine the cause of the foal's behavior. To give the foal the best chance of complete recovery, this examination should be done as soon as the owner notices a problem.