A recently published article reviewed a number of studies that looked at the different clinical and laboratory findings that are used to determine the chance for survival of at-risk foals. It is recognized that live foal production is imperative for the success of the equine breeding industry and the average mare must produce 6 foals successfully over a 7-year period to be financially viable. Survival of each foal therefore becomes very important. A heart rate of > 70 beats/minute, a respiratory rate of > 60 breaths/minute, a rectal temperature > 99 degrees F, normal mucous membranes, and the ability to stand were all found to be good indicators for survival. Duration of clinical symptoms of the foal prior to admission to a referral equine facility had a significant negative impact on the survival of the foal. “Maternal disease (both systemic and placental) were found to be higher among nonsurviving than surviving foals”. Sepsis (a potentially life threatening complication of infection in which the organism is spread through the blood to the tissues) was the most common problem in these at-risk foals. Blood values, including a CBC, blood chemistry, glucose, lactate and IgG level are also used to help determine prognosis. The author sums up this study as follows: “A number of studies suggest appropriate basic physical examination parameters, blood work that does not suggest the likelihood of a septic process, and a sufficient Ig concentration to be associated with survival. This information is readily assessed in field situations.”
Relevance: Foaling season will begin soon. You and your veterinarian can thoroughly assess your at-risk foal in the field and complete the process with some in house blood work, thereby giving you the answers that are needed quickly to determine the best course of action for the foal. The sooner the needs of these special foals are addressed, the greater the chance for success.
Scientific Article: Morresey, PR. Review of Prognostic Studies of Neonatal Foals: Making Sense of the Noise. AAEP Proceedings 2015, Vol. 61, pp. 50-55.