Dysmature Foal in Horses

Dysmature Foal in Horses - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
Dysmature Foal in Horses - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Dysmature Foal?

If your mare gives birth to a foal that shows signs of dysmaturity, a veterinarian must be called.  It is important that the foal be examined within 10-12 hours after birth.  Please keep the mare and foal in a quiet stall with clean bedding.  Do not dispose of the placenta, the veterinarian will want to weigh it and to make sure it passed out of the uterus completely.

Dysmature foal is a condition where a full-term foal is born with premature signs.  The mare goes through a normal gestation period of 340 to 360 days but deliverers a foal that appears to be premature.

Symptoms of Dysmature Foal in Horses

Symptoms may include:

  • The foal is very thin
  • Respiratory distress
  • Floppy ears
  • Thin silky coat
  • Difficulty standing
  • Incomplete ossification of the cuboidal bones
  • Bow legged
  • Weak suckle reflex
  • Secondary bacterial infection


Causes of Dysmature Foal in Horses

The primary reason for dysmature foals is placental insufficiency.  Placental insufficiency causes the lack of nutrients to reach the fetus.  It also can cause a reduction of oxygen traveling to the unborn foal through the umbilical cord.  Placental insufficiency can be a result of a bacterial infection.



Diagnosis of Dysmature Foal in Horses

The veterinarian may want to go over the mare’s medical history.  Let the veterinarian know if the mare had any medical conditions during her pregnancy.  The veterinarian will perform a visual assessment of the foal.  He will want to see if the foal is able to stand on his own. 

If the foal has nursed, let the veterinarian know. It is important that the foal nurses and receive the mare’s colostrum. Colostrum is the first milk the mare produces.  Colostrum provides vitamins, minerals and antibodies to the foal. It also acts like a laxative and helps the foal pass the meconium.  Meconium should be passed within 2-4 hours after birth.  If meconium is not passed it can become impacted in the foal’s stomach.

The veterinarian will take the foal’s weight, temperature, pulse and heart rate.  He may also want to listen to the foal’s lungs, heart and gastrointestinal tract. 

The veterinarian may suggest x-ray of the foal’s limbs.  Bloodwork may also be drawn on the foal and mare.  A complete blood count (CBC) can check the count of platelets, red and white blood cells.  A CBC will help determine if there is a bacterial infection. Another diagnostic blood test that may be suggested is a serum chemistry panel. This blood test evaluates organ function, blood protein and electrolytes.



Treatment of Dysmature Foal in Horses

If your foal has a weak suckle reflex, the veterinarian may want him to be placed on colostrum supplemental nutrition.  Heat lamps can help keep the foal warm.  The veterinarian may suggest antibiotics and antimicrobials as a preventative treatment plan. 

If the complete blood count determined that the mare has a bacterial infection, she will be prescribed an antibiotic.

The veterinarian may recommend intravenous fluid therapy. The foal will need stall rest to ensure he does not cause his weak limbs injury.  It is imperative that the veterinarian’s treatment instructions are followed.

The veterinarian may recommend hoof manipulation and frequent trimming. He will refer you to a reputable farrier. Your foal may also need physical therapy for his limbs.  Mild deformities of the hind limbs and forelimbs are usually resolved with light leg wraps and monitored exercise.  Some patients may need splinting or casting of the limb.

If the foal is experiencing respiratory distress, is not responding to the treatment, or is unable to stand, he may need to be hospitalized. Once hospitalized the foal will receive continuous care and treatment in an intensive care unit.



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Recovery of Dysmature Foal in Horses

If your foal is being cared for at home he will need regular veterinarian visits. Your foal needs to be monitored closely.  A dysmature foal can develop serious conditions such as colic, pneumonia, fungal infections, and sepsis. Contact your veterinarian immediately if any new symptoms develop.

Foals that are hospitalized for dysmaturity may need to stay in the intensive care unit for a few weeks.  Recovery prognosis for dysmature foals that are treated and closely monitored is good.



Dysmature Foal Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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