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What are Cauterization of Patent Urachus?

Patent urachus occurs in newborn foals when urine leaks from the umbilical cord due to the urachus not closing completely at birth. The urachus is the tube in the umbilical cord that the foal passes urine through to the fluid-filled sac surrounding it, in utero. This normally closes at birth, or shortly thereafter, due to movement of the foal or mare during and after the birthing process. When it does not close or when it closes and then re-opens, a patent urachus has occurred, resulting in urine leaking from the umbilical cord. It is not uncommon for urine to leak from the navel immediately after birth, however, if this persists for more than a few days, or if it starts after several days it may need to be addressed with cauterization to close off the leakage at the naval. A patent urachus can provide a passage for bacteria to enter the foal, causing systemic infection and creating a life-threatening condition. Cauterization with silver nitrate or thermocauterization performed by your veterinarian is used to address this condition and prevent leakage of urine and the opportunity for infection to develop.

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Cauterization of Patent Urachus Procedure in Horses

Your veterinarian will examine a foal with patent urachus to determine whether infection is present. An ultrasound to confirm patent urachus and cultures or blood tests to identify infection present will be used in diagnosis. Depending on presence and degree of infection, appropriate antibiotics will be used. Even without obvious signs of infection, antibiotics will be administered prophylactically. Cauterization of patent urachus will be performed by administration of silver nitrate daily for several days or with thermocautery. Topical antibiotic may also be administered. If cauterization does not stimulate the urachus to close, surgery may be indicated.

Efficacy of Cauterization of Patent Urachus in Horses

Patent urachus usually can be successfully treated with cauterization which stimulates the urachus to close. Prognosis is good if early diagnosis and treatment is received before infection has a chance to develop. If advanced infection is present, prognosis becomes guarded.

Cauterization of Patent Urachus Recovery in Horses

Hospitalization of a foal may be necessary, especially if systemic infection is present. The foal will require stall rest for several days and antibiotic treatments for infection. Providing a clean stall with ample bedding and monitoring the foal for closure of the urachus, signs of infection, and complications such as urine scalding and dermatitis is necessary during recovery. The foal may require restricted activity for several weeks post cauterization of patent urachus if difficulty with closure or infection was present.

Cost of Cauterization of Patent Urachus in Horses

Cost of treatment including hospitalization and antibiotics can be expensive, especially if severe infection is present, and lengthy hospitalization and care is required. The total cost of treatment can range from $500 for simple cauterization with silver nitrate to $3,000 or more for cauterization and treatment of infection including hospitalization.

Horse Cauterization of Patent Urachus Considerations

If severe infection is present, prognosis in the foal is guarded and treatment may be cost prohibitive. If cauterization is not successful, a foal may become very ill and require surgical intervention.

Cauterization of Patent Urachus Prevention in Horses

There seems to be no indication of genetics playing a role in parent urachus and control of breeding of horses experiencing this condition may not result in prevention of patent urachus in horses. Careful handling of foals after birth so as not to put stress on their abdomens may reduce incidence. In addition, monitoring foals to determine if they are straining due to constipation, which may contribute to urachus openings, or to discover patent urachus immediately upon manifestation so it can be addressed before infection has an opportunity to establish will greatly improve the prognosis for the foal.