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Survival Indicators for At-Risk Foals

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 of 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 six foals successfully over a 7-year period to be financially viable. Survival of each foal, therefore, becomes very important. The following vital measurements were all found to be good indicators for survival:

  • Heart rate of > 70 beats/minute

  • Respiratory rate of > 60 breaths/minute

  • Rectal temperature > 99 degrees F

  • Normal mucous membranes

  • Ability to stand

The 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 non-surviving 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.”

Scientific Article: Morresey, PR. Review of Prognostic Studies of Neonatal Foals: Making Sense of the Noise. AAEP Proceedings 2015, Vol. 61, pp. 50-55.


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