Veterinary Care of the New Born Foal
Once your Foal has survived the birth there are just a few more important steps to a healthy Foal.
The New Born Foal
Try to leave Mare and Foal alone to bond. This is the most important time for the mare and you should not be involved unless there are significant problems – we know it can be tempting.
The mare will normally lick and clean the foal as it makes attempts to stand and balance.
Normal foals will be active almost as soon as they are born, and should be making attempts to stand within 15-30 minutes of birth.
Most foals will be up and have taken their first drink well within an hour or two of birth. Some foals may need guidance to find the udder – do not interfere or bottle feed them as a substitute unless absolutely necessary as this leads to poorer colostrum absorption in the foal and will reduce their drive to find the udder themselves. If your foal has still not had a drink at 2 hours of age then that is a good time to start trying to guide the foal, call for advice if you are not certain on how best to do this.
Once the foal is up, it is vital to treat the foal’s umbilical stump with an antibacterial solution.The umbilicus contains structures that run up into the foal’s vital organs, and infection of the umbilical stump can lead to serious illness in the foal. 1 or 2% Iodine solutions or 0.5% Chlorhexidine solutions are ideal (do not use stronger iodine solutions as these are irritant). Treat the umbilicus twice a day for the first few days of the foal’s life. The umbilicus should be clean and dry within 12 hours of birth, it is not normal for fluid to be leaking from this area and a wet umbilicus is susceptible to infection.
The first manure passed by a foal is named ‘meconium’ which is a thick dark manure which should be passed within 12 hours of age (most foals pass it much earlier than this). Foals can struggle to pass this, and if you see your foal straining and showing signs of colic within 24hours after foaling it could well be that they need help to pass this meconium.
The average foal will urinate every 1-2 hours, often after a drink and they will only produce small amounts of dilute urine. It is normal for the foal to nap between drinks, but if you are concerned that the foal is too sleepy or quiet you are best to seek veterinary advice.
If you suspect a problem with the foal’s legs, such as being down on their fetlocks or up on their tip toes, then it is best to call a vet as some limb abnormalities can be easily treated in the first few weeks after birth, but if not corrected can lead to serious implications for the foal’s future soundness and athletic potential.
It is quite normal to have a routine check of your foal even if you are confident everything is normal.At about 24-36 hours of age is the best time to do this. This is an ideal time to check that the umbilicus, heart and eyes and that there are no major health issues.
Blood tests are routinely taken to check that the foal has obtained enough protection from the mare’s colostrum. We test the foal's IgG level in the blood which indicates whether it has gained enough goodness from the mare's colostrum to give itself an immune system to fight infection. After 24-36 hours of age the foal can’t get what it needs from the milk and will be at much greater risk of getting a serious infection if not treated.