You waited and waited and waited past 340 days and then 350 days still no baby. You think to yourself, few at least I won’t have to deal with a premature foal. Well…. Not exactly.
We had a foal born at 365 days, yes a WHOLE year. Conception 1/1/14 birth 1/1/15. Was a maiden mare so we were worried that she went so far over. We did a rectal palpation 2 times in her overdue period to make sure that the foal was alive and heartbeat strong. Kept tabs on the mares birthing signs and temperature and we got a filly at 365 days.
When she came out she was TINY. A whapping 60 lbs where 80 lbs is considered a small foal for our breed, We prefer them to be 100lbs. She had a longer mane and tail than normal newborns as well as having very thick body hair like she was already 2 weeks old. Her head was proportionately a bit large for her body. She was weak in the tendons, not too much to where we didn’t think she would straighten up but worth mentioning for the blog. We had another foal born the same day just over 18 hours later (gestation 321 days) who was healthy so we had instant comparison, but also had years of experience of what to expect.
Normal foal born 18 hrs later
All seemed to be going well she got up at a normal time, she drank, meconium (first poop) came out, she took a pee. The mare’s colostrum test put her in the excellent/ above average!
But something made me feel like she was still “fetal”. Her looks as previously mentioned were a bit of a concern, but her actions were also interesting. When a foal sleeps they normally just plunk down and pass out either curled up or flat but they don’t do much fiddling. This little girl seemed to walk in circles while sleeping or scooching from one spot to another while sleeping. You could say it would be what a fetus does in the belly, moving while sleeping, except she was already out.
Dismature foal up and dry
She was also very easy to restrain and seemed overly imprinted. I could do just about anything including give her an enema without her getting up off the ground. WAY too placid for a foal. A foal even when imprinted should still have some fight in them and give a good push on you from time to time and flinch at things that are new to them.
I’m glad I had that gut feeling like she was not quite at the top of her game. By the next day she was not pooping. Lots of straining and stomping and swishing of her tail but no poops. I gave her an enema, and walked her and the dam around in the arena where I could evaluate anything that came out. Nothing came out. Not good.
I had been watching her on the cameras and she was drinking still but had gone from good long gulps to lots of utter bumping and walking around. The dam was doing a lot of squirting of milk and there were puddles in places to indicate that her drinking was not as effective as her mom’s milk let down. So dehydration was on my list of concerns as well as decreased immune transfer.
Dismature foal straining trying to poop
She was also doing a lot of straining trying to poop with no poop coming out so there was clearly something irritating her, blocked or not right
The whole time I was taking her temperature, 102 normal, normal 101.5, normal 102.1 then uh oh 103.5.
We called out the vet, you can’t be too cautious with these little one’s and at this point I was worried about impaction, dehydration and lack of immune transfer. Not a fun way to greet your babies first day after such a long wait.
Vet came and agreed that the foal looked fetal, or premature, but being past due would now be called dismature. We tested her IgG and blood work. Gave her IV fluids with glucose, another enema, and started her on antibiotics. The IgG came back above 800 on the snap test to luckily she did get immune transfer, but if she had not we would have done a plasma transfusion. Her bloodwork came back that she had an infection but we had already started the antibiotics. Her blood cultures did not grow anything so we felt strongly that the infection was affiliated with the intestines not functioning as normal.
Dismature foal straining, trying to keep her warm in a blanket
Dog blankets are the best fit for premature foals
When dealing with a premature/dismature foal it’s always a possibility that their intestines are not functioning as they should so absorption of nutrients, immunity, and fluids for hydration. Even if your foal is late or on time please keep an eye on them very closely in the first few days.
You also have to worry about their temperature every 6 hours because a foal, especially an immature, premature, dismature foal has problems regulating their body temperature. This foal’s temperature was anywhere from 100 to 102.7 the few days after the vet had come out. Ask your vet what temperature you should call them out again at. We found that the foal did a little better when wearing a little blanket at night when it got a bit colder. The weather was not terrible but the poor little girl was shaking a lot even when dry. Some shaking when born is normal and wakes the muscles but they should not be shaking the next day. It’s always a good idea to check your foals temperature even if there isn’t something concerning you.
They are very fragile and they can go downhill very quickly. Watch their nursing very closely, just because they are under there doesn’t mean that they are swallowing or consuming the volume that they need.