Please remember that the majority of newborn foals are delivered healthily, however being aware of some common problems and diseases caused by viruses, bacteria or birthing issues may be of assistance.
There can be a considerable variety of deformities of all four limbs following the birth however in many cases these correct themselves once the foal is able to stand, use their legs and suckle.
Hind limbs may have quite remarkable degrees of curvature and the fetlock may appear to be distended touching the ground when the foal stands however it is amazing how quickly these will strengthen and correct themselves. Fore limb abnormalities such as 'wonky' legs, misaligned feet, knock knees and week joints may be more serious. Veterinary advise is always advised at any sign of abnormality as it may involve tendon, ligament or bone malfunction which may need to be managed.
It is not uncommon to see the foal's eyes streaming with tears. This may be caused by in-growing eye lashes or when the eye ball has receded for some reason and the lower eyelid curls inwards, irritating the eyeball directly. Again this problem may well correct itself in a short time however manual manipulation to pull the eyelid clear or veterinary intervention maybe required.
As the foal develops within the mare, a proportion of waste products are released into the gut, this is called a meconium. This material will be excreted within the first 24 hours of birth however retention is quite common in all breeds. The foal will continue to suckle, however they may become restless, roll a lot, look at their flanks and have slight distension of the abdomen. Should the symptoms persist and you cannot find this meconium within the bedding, the vet may suggest an administration of a small dose of liquid paraffin or castor oil to ease the movement. Watch them closely and ask for professional advise if any doubt.
Hernias are more commonly known as ruptures and are quite common in foals. An umbilical hernia occurs as a result upon the closure of the umbilical cord at the navel allowing a small portion of protective tissue or maybe a portion of gut to escape and lie just beneath the skin. These are soft swellings which can be easily pushed back and in time generally disappear. If however the swelling becomes warm and painful to touch, veterinary advise should be sought, to verify the piece of bowel is not pinched or 'strangulated'.
Viral infections are best prevented through vaccinations given to the mare at least a month before the foal is due which will eliminate the risk of equine herpes virus and equine arteritis virus being transmitted which would prove fatal. A severe respiratory distress observed within 10days of birth may be signs of viral pneumonia which is very serious and may prove fatal. Rotavirus can cause diarrhoea in young foals and depending on the strength of the foals immune system can persist for a few months, causing concerns of hydration and nutrient absorption.
Premature foals, twins or foals that have not received the mare's colostrum. Septicaemia occurs when the foals bloodstream is infected by bacteria which may have entered through an unclean umbilical cord, the placenta, the digestive ort respiratory tract. Signs of infection are diarrhoea, hypothermia, fever and weakness, all of which may be treated with antibiotics.
More breeding related articles
Beeding Part 1 - Preparation and gestaion -Take responsibility, choosing the stallion. Read more
Breeding Part 2 - Care of the Pregnant Mare, how does the foal develop. Read more
Breeding part 3 - The Big Day Arrives. Read more
Breeding part 4 - Caring for the new born foal and the mare. Read more