Newborn foal exams Ask the Vet

by daniel h. grove, dvm I

t is January and the foals are coming. I thought a review of what I look for in a newborn foal exam was worth revisiting.

Twelve to twenty four hours after birth, it is an excellent idea to have your newborn evaluated by your veterinarian. This month, I would like to discuss what I do on my new foal exams and why. I do them in the same order everytime so that I do not miss any- thing. I start at the tail and work my way forward. Genitalia—The first area I start with. I

determine the sex of the foal and examine the external genitalia to make sure things are normal. Does the vulva appear normal if it is a filly and on the males, are both testes down. Tetanus Antitoxin—While I am at the tail, I

give a dose of tetanus antitoxin. Regardless of the fact the mare should have been vac- cinated properly before foaling and passed on passive immunity to the foal, it is cheap insurance against a very challenging disease to treat. Umbilicus—Next I move to the belly but-

ton area. I make sure the umbilical stump appears and palpates normally. Also we check for an umbilical hernia. Finally, a good dipping of the stump in some chlor- hexadine solution is great to prevent infec- tions down the road Heart and lungs—I now move forward and

listen to the heart and lungs. In the heart, I want to hear a good lub and dub and no

A monthly column by Daniel H. Grove, DVM

Got a question for Dr. Grove? Send your inquiries to, and it could be answered by Dr. Grove in a future column. Dr. Grove is based at West Coast Equine Medicine, headquartered in Fallbrook, Calif., where he lives with his wife Kristen.

extra sounds. There is a small valve in the heart that is supposed to close just aſter birth and we can usually pick up on it at this time if it did not. In the lungs, we want nice clean lung sounds with litle to no moisture. Also, we want to listen for abrupt loud nois- es that could indicate a fractured rib. Eyes—With the eyes, first we want to

make sure they are clear and we do not have cataracts. Next, We make sure the eyelids are normal. A common problem with the eyelids is entropion, where the eyelid is rolled in. This can easily damage the eyeball itself if not promptly corrected Mouth—In the mouth we are going to

check for a normal suckle reflex. This indi- cates the foal can nurse properly. Next, we feel the roof of the mouth to look for a cleſt palate. Lastly, we look at how the gums will line up and determine if there is a normal bite, under bite, or overbite. Blood—I always like to draw blood and run a stall side IgG test. This gives us an indication of how good the mare’s colos- trum or first milk is and how well the foal absorbed it. This first milk is critical to the newborns immunity for the first few months of life. If it is inadequate, we can correct it with either supplemental colos- trum or a plasma transfusion. Legs—Now it is time to take a step back and look at how the legs appear. Do we have tendon laxity or tendon contraction? Do we have an angular limb deformity? These things can be treated and usually corrected early in life. If leſt without intervention,

they may resolve or they may become a permanent deformity, depending upon the specific issue. Plasma—On many breeding farms you

have endemic diseases you deal with year aſter year. One way to help the foals fight these diseases is with plasma from adults vaccinated against the target diseases. This plasma donation is rich in antibodies against those diseases vaccinated for. These antibodies give the foal a tool to minimize the effects of the disease. The mare—Aſter looking at the foal, we

need to look at a few things on mom to make sure she is going to stay healthy and be able to care for the newborn. First, is she producing enough milk? Next, we inspect the placenta. If it is incomplete and a piece is leſt in her, she can develop a life threatening infection than can lead to severe laminitis. Lastly, we look at her vulva and see what kind of damage it made have incurred. Sometimes it appears as the mare barely even foaled and sometimes there are tears and bruising. Some tears can extend all the way into the rectum and manure gets dumped into the vagina leading to infec- tions or decreased future fertility. These are the main things I look for on

my new foal exams. It is a good idea to have it done in an atempt to not only end up up with a healthy horse, but one that is going to be functional for what you are raising it for!


Casner Ranch 34520 De Portola Rd. | Temecula, CA


Focused on training Jumpers• Green to Grand Prix

Sales Consignment • Clinics • Investments • Syndicates

(951)217-3933 •

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48