How to handle common foaling complications and injuries

How to handle common foaling complications and injuries

May 01, 2010

Foaling, like human delivery, should be uneventful. But the process can be fast and violent, and it can present serious health problems to the mare and foal.

"When mares deliver foals in the standing position, the foaling process is extremely explosive compared even to calving in the cow," says Pete Sheerin, DVM, Dipl. ACT, Rood & Riddle Equine Clinic, Lexington, Ky. "Over such a short period of time, there's just so much abdominal push. When you stimulate a mare's cervix, she starts to push. And many times it's hard to get malpresentations corrected quickly while she's pushing against you."

Difficulties can arise with recumbent deliveries as well. "When mares lie down on their side, they push with all their might," states Karen Wolfsdorf, DVM, Dipl. ACT, Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, Lexington, Ky. "And these are big animals with a lot of musculature and a very strong abdominal press. That's why if you do not have the foal presented correctly, it definitely has a huge impact — the mare can get into serious trouble since she keeps pushing and there is nowhere for that foal to go."

"Most of the time, foaling is uncomplicated. It's those rare occasions that something goes wrong," notes Jennifer Schleining, DVM, MS, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. "Then you've got some pretty important decisions that you have to make readily. You may have to decide, if I had the option, do I want to save the mare or do I want to save the foal? Time is of the essence — you have a relatively small window to get the foal out properly to save the foal or the mare or both."