Last Updated on May 25, 2022
Foals have very sensitive digestive systems, and it is essential that good practices to help improve neonatal GI tract of foals are followed to help prevent gastrointestinal problems.
Best Practices To Help Improve Neonatal GI Tract Of Foals
When a foal is born, it has a very sensitive and underdeveloped digestive system. In fact, the digestive system of a foal undergoes some huge changes during the first few days of life, and there are many things we can do to keep them safe and healthy during this time.
Care Of The Dam Prior To Foaling
Heath care of the foal starts before it is even born, by ensuring that the dam is in peak condition. During the last trimester of her pregnancy, the unborn foal grows very quickly, and she will need increased levels of nutrition to facilitate this. This includes higher levels of protein to help the unborn foal grow healthy and strong body tissue.
During this time, the mare will also be developing antibodies to pass onto the newborn foal. When a foal is firstborn, it does not have any antibodies and is highly susceptible to infection. It is only by getting antibodies from its dam that it can develop a healthy immune system.
There are some key things that the owner of a broodmare can do during the pregnancy to help ensure the mare has the right antibodies to pass onto the foal. The first step is to ensure that she receives the right vaccinations at the correct stages of her pregnancy. The mare can then build up antibodies against these diseases to pass on to the newborn foal.
It is also a good idea to move the mare to her foaling facility at least one month before she is due to foal. Here she will be able to develop an immune response to any potential pathogens in the area, ready to pass on to the foal. It will also allow her to become accustomed to her new environment, helping to keep her relaxed during the foaling process.
The foaling stall should be thoroughly disinfected before foaling, to reduce the risk of infection to the mare and foal. Direct contact with other horses should be kept to a minimum, although the mare will require some equine company to keep her calm and relaxed.
Care Of The Newborn Foal – Practices To Help Improve Neonatal GI Tract Of Foals
When the foal is firstborn, the umbilical cord will still be attached to the placenta inside the womb of the mare. This will be naturally broken after around 20 minutes when the mare and foal start to move around. Do not be tempted to cut the umbilical cord, as you will cause it to bleed and increase the risk of infection.
Once the umbilical cord has broken, the navel should be treated with a mild disinfectant solution. This will help prevent infection from ascending the umbilical cord, potentially causing septicemia and gastrointestinal tract issues.
If you live in a region with a high incidence of infectious gastrointestinal tract disorders, your veterinarian may recommend that you give your foal an oral paste containing antibodies against specific diseases within a few hours of birth. This should be planned in advance with your veterinary team or the foaling center staff.
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Colostrum – Practices To Help Improve Neonatal GI Tract Of Foals
Colostrum is the first milk that the foal drinks, and it is very rich in antibodies. During the first 12 hours of life, the foal’s digestive system is able to absorb these antibodies, helping it to develop immunity against disease and infection. It is vital that the foal starts to suckle and drinks the colostrum, otherwise it may not have adequate immunity to thrive.
If the foal is struggling to suckle, the colostrum can be milked from the mare and bottle-fed to the foal. It can then be encouraged to learn how to suckle – however, most foals figure out how to do this without any assistance from humans!
Meconium is the first feces passed by the foal and consists of fecal material that accumulates in the rectum before birth. It is not uncommon for a foal to struggle to pass meconium, and you may see some straining and discomfort. If your foal is showing signs of colic and has not passed meconium, you will need to seek veterinary assistance.
Summary – Practices To Help Improve Neonatal GI Tract Of Foals
So, as we have learned, the best practices to help improve neonatal GI tract of foals include vaccination of the mare, and adequate passive transfer of maternal antibodies. Good hygiene standards are also essential to prevent the transmission of infection.
We’d love to hear your thought on the best practices to help improve neonatal GI tract of foals! Have you ever experienced a situation where a foal has suffered from GI tract problems? Or perhaps you’ve got a question about the best way to prepare for the birth of your new foal? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
What Can You Give A Foal For Diarrhea?
The best treatment for a foal with diarrhea will depend on the initial cause of the problem. Diarrhea in foals can be very serious, so it is vital to seek veterinary advice if your foal has diarrhea. Treatment may include intravenous fluids to replace lost fluids, electrolytes, and glucose.
How Do You Prevent Clostridium In Foals?
High levels of hygiene and biosecurity are essential to prevent clostridium in foals. If the mare is vaccinated against clostridium, she will also pass on antibodies to the disease through her colostrum.
What Can I Use For A Foals Navel?
The navel of a foal should be treated with a mild disinfectant within 30 minutes of the cord breaking. This will help to prevent umbilical cord infections. A weak solution of either chlorhexadine or iodine should be used.
How Do You Treat FPT In Foals?
If a foal has failure of passive transfer (FPT), it will have very low levels of antibodies and will be highly susceptible to disease and infection. An intravenous transfer of plasma that is high in antibodies can help to boost the immune system of the foal.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse
care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since
she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local
stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She
has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in
various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the
patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went
on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in
the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of
horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for
educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN REVN RVN A1