Equine Post Foaling Checks
As a matter of practice policy we recommend post foaling checks to be carried out as soon as practical on the day of foaling. There are 2 distinct parts of this check up, examining the mare and also the foal.
We assess the mare for general health and ensure that she is producing sufficient milk to feed the foal and also that she will "let down" the milk when the foal suckles. Occasionally the mare may be ticklish or even frightened when the foal attempts to suckle and a higher degree of supervision by the owner may be necessary before the normal suckling is established. We check that the mare has passed all of the afterbirth, as retention of fetal membranes can be highly dangerous and lead to toxicity and laminitis. If the placenta has not been passed within a few hours of foaling then we would have to physically remove it.
When we examine the foal we observe for general health and any signs of prematurity. It is important to establish that the foal has the strength to stand and initiate the normal suckling process as it is important that the foal suckles within 3-4 hours of birth to take in the mare's colostrums and hence absorb the maternal antibodies which will protect it from infection during the first few weeks of life. We assess that the foal's navel is dry, clean and dressed to avoid ascending infection occurring. We look for any signs of limb deformities that may cause trouble as the foal grows. Finally we give the foal an injection of antibiotics to try and prevent peri-natal infections and also Tetanus anti-toxin to prevent Tetanus at this vulnerable time. The use of Tetanus antitoxin has become controversial recently as some authorities maintain that its effectiveness is limited. However following discussion with peer groups we have decided to continue with this practice as it does give some protection particularly when the mare's immune system is unknown and we would rather be safe than sorry.