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Pregnancy and Foaling

 

Normal gestation is 340 days.  A pregnancy less than 320 days is considered premature and may result in a 'dummy foal'. Signs of prematurity include a silky coat, weak tendons and a domed head. 

Foaling normally takes around 20-30 minutes after the mare's water have broken.  If the birth is not progressing within 20-30 minutes a veterinarian should be called.

The newborn will normally try to sit up within five minutes of birth, a suckle reflex is normally present within twenty minutes of birth. This can be tested by placing a finger in the foal's mouth. 

The foal should attempt to stand within thirty minutes and be able to stand unassisted within one to two hours.  Generally, a foal should nurse within three hours.

The first faeces (meconium) are also passed within this time.

 

For the first 24 hours after giving birth the mare produces a thick milk called colostrum. Colostrum is very important as it is very rich in antibodies, protein and calories.  These antibodies, known as immunoglobulins (IgG) are vital to the foal and protect against environmental diseases. They are much larger than normal proteins and can only be absorbed by the foal's intestines during the first 12-24 hours of life.  It is, therefore, vitally important the foal suckles during this time.  After this, the only way a foal can absorb more immunoglobulins is by an intravenous transfusion.  If there is any doubt as to whether the foal has suckled it is recommended your foal has his IgG levels checked within the first 12 hours to ensure he or she has adequate protection against disease.

 

The foal will pass multiple small piles of meconium within the first 24 hours. The meconium is a very dark brown/black colour and has a different appearance to normal faeces. If no faeces are passed or the foal is straining an enema may be required to assist the foal. After all the meconium has passed the foal will start to defecate a thick, pasty, orange coloured faeces indicating that milk has made its way through the digestive tract.

 

The placenta should be examined to ensure none of the membranes have been retained.

 

If you have any concerns or questions regarding your foaling mare or newborn please feel free to call the clinic for advice or to arrange a visit from one of the veterinarians if required.