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‘Flash’ the foal

The Adventures of Flash

 The birth of a foal is one of the delights of animal ownership. Whilst the speed with which a foal is able to stand, suck and then trot around with great agility is a wondrous thing, there are some obstacles that can be presented, as the following case demonstrates.

Little “Flash” was born easily and with no problems at 10.00 pm one night in August. He literally popped out over a ten minute period. He immediately began to suck well, though the owner noted that the mare had been dripping milk for four days prior to the birth.

Early the following morning “Flash” was seen constantly getting up and lying down and seemed to have abdominal pain. On occasions he would roll and kick at his abdomen. He was no longer interested in sucking from the mare. When standing he would strain to defaecate and he had not been seen to pass faeces.

The diagnostic possibilities for these signs include constipation (or so called retained meconium), ruptured urinary bladder, intestinal obstruction, peritonitis and congenital malformation of the intestines.

Retained meconium was considered most likely as this is particularly common in colt  foals. It can be a life threatening condition if not treated early. Over thirty minutes warm water enemas were given and eventually eight large faecal masses were removed from the rectum. “Flash” was immediately more comfortable after the treatment.

We were concerned that because the mare had been dripping milk prior to foaling that the quality of the colostrum (the all important “first milk”) may have been poor. This means that protective antibodies are not transferred to the foal, leaving it exposed to infections during the early part of the foal’s life, until his own immune system is well enough established to provide protection.

A blood test was taken and the results confirmed that “Flash” had insufficient antibodies. Over the next 24 hours two transfusions of antibody rich plasma were given into the jugular vein. This was done with the help of our visiting veterinary student Nadia and also our trainee veterinary nurse, Lauren (see picture).

Our final blood test showed that the antibody levels were adequate for “Flash” and at last report he was strong, happy and well on the way to an active and healthy life.

foal with meconium problem

A foal straining to defaecate and showing typical signs of retained meconium

Flash and mare after removal of the retained meconium

Flash and mare after removal of the retained meconium

Trainee vet nurse Lauren helping to administer the plasma

Trainee vet nurse Lauren helping to administer the plasma

Past feature cases: