Spring has finally sprung in the Southern Highlands and as an equine vet clinic this  is our favourite time of the year.

A large amount of foals are born over the coming months and the Southern  Highlands is becoming a renowned breeding area for Thoroughbred’s and non-  Thoroughbreds alike, but what should you know about the  foaling process?

The normal gestational length for a mare is 326 – 343 days. Predicting parturition  is difficult but mammary development and dried secretions or ‘wax’ on the end of  the teats is a sign of impending parturition.

Since most mares foal at night, most commercial studs elect to observe mares on a  24-hour basis as they near their due date. Foaling alarms and milk electrolytes test  kits can help the small breeder better predict time of foaling and help avoid sitting up all night for weeks on end.  Southern Highlands Equine Centre has both available at the office either for purchase (test kit) or for hire (foaling alarm).

The first stage of parturition lasts from 30 minutes to 3 hours and characteristics include sweating, colic-like signs, and repeatedly lying down and getting up.

The onset of the second stage starts when the fetal membranes rupture (‘water breaks’), the cervix is dilated and the foal enters the birth canal due to strong uterine contractions.  The foal should present with one foot just in front of the other with the soles of the hooves pointing down and the head following shortly after. The nose should appear once the fetlocks are through the vulva and the amnion should rupture when the shoulders are visible.  If this doesn’t occur the amnion should gently be broken and removed from the foal’s nostrils to prevent suffocation.  Once the foal’s hips are through the pelvis the mare may rest with the hocks and hind fetlocks in the birth canal.  Minimal disturbance at this stage is important to continue to allow the blood from the placenta to reach the foal while the cord is still intact.  When the mare stands the umbilical cord usually ruptures.  The whole of the second stage should be completed within 20-30minutes.  If there is no progression of parturition within 15 minutes of the waters breaking veterinary attention should be sought immediately.  Dystocia is a true emergency and prompt correction of the problem is imperative for the survival of the foal (and sometimes the mare).

Third stage of parturition involves expulsion of the fetal membranes and uterine involution.  This can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours after birth.  Retention of fetal membranes over 6 hours requires veterinary treatment.

The foal should be standing within 1 hour and on the suck (drinking) within 2 hours of birth. Monitor the foal closely over the first 24 hours of life to detect any abnormalities. Please call your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your newborn foal.

Maria Diaz 2.1



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