Caring for newborn foals | Living the Country Life

Caring for newborn foals

Give them the once-over to be sure they're healthy

When a mare gives birth, everything usually goes okay. But immediately after the foal is born, there are some things you should pay attention to.

You can't always have a vet there at the moment of birth, so it's important to know how to check newborn foals. Pamela Wilkins is with the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. She says within a minute or so of when the foal is out of the birth canal, make sure it's breathing and starting to roll up onto its belly and bottom of the chest.

"If it's not doing that, they need to go and stimulate it, and see if it's got a heart beat, if it's got an attempt to make breathing efforts, and if it has any muscle tone at all. If it's not doing any of those things, then they need to start essentially CPR on the foal," Wilkins says.

The foal should be up on its feet, or making an effort to get up within an hour or so of birth. However, it depends on the breed and size. Wilkes says it may take a thoroughbred foal two hours to stand, but miniature breeds can be running around the stall within a few minutes.

Once the foal is standing, it should behave like a happy, healthy animal.

"Normal foals sleep, they get up, they play, they urinate, they nurse, and then they go back to sleep. And they do that multiple times, even multiple times an hour," Wilkins says. " If they behave abnormally, one of the things would be standing underneath the mare, kind of with their head lowered at the udder and the mare's actually leaking milk on their head, to me that's a sign that that's a fairly sick foal."

Sudden lameness in a foal is another reason to call the vet. It could be infection of a bone or joint.

Even if the foal is happily prancing around, Wilkins advises having a veterinarian examine the baby within 24-hours to take a blood test and look for congenital problems.

Find more tips for caring for newborn foals

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