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March 6, 2018 | By KFPS


The birth starts with rupturing of the allantois. Within the next ten minutes the feet must be visible in the vulva opening. If this doesn’t happen it is necessary to check their whereabouts with a clean arm and establish if the nose is lying on top of them. With an incorrect presentation of the foal or when the delivery stagnates it is essential to call in the vet immediately.
When dealing with a ‘red bag delivery’ the allantois doesn’t rupture but becomes detached from the uterine wall which stops the oxygen flow to the foal. This looks like a red bag popping out of the vulva. In the event of a ‘red bag delivery’ the allantois must be cut open or ruptured at once and the foal must be guided out of the mare as quickly as possible to prevent the foal from dying or contracting a serious lack of oxygen.
The head, neck, forelegs and upper part of the foal’s body develop in the uterine cavity, while its hindquarters grow in one of the horns. When the foal’s forehand grows in one of the horns the foal will be born in a backward presentation. In this situation pressure is put on the umbilical cord while the foal’s head is still in the mare. So when the delivery is slow the foal will quickly suffer from oxygen shortage and in a panic reaction will inhale amniotic fluid. Because they have contracted oxygen shortage particularly in the region of their brain, such foals are slow or even fail to get going.
In case of a transverse presentation the forehand and hindquarters have each developed in one of the horns with no part or just one or two legs having grown in the corpus. As a consequence, there will be little enlargement of the uterine corpus but instead it will stretch to a long and narrow shape caused by the growing foetus inside the horns. When it’s time for the birth the foal cannot be pushed out. In the event of a complete transverse presentation no part of the foal will be present in the pelvic cavity and the birth will be detected at a late stage or not at all. Partial or complete transverse presentations usually result in a Caesarean section.

The afterbirth must arrive within three hours after the birth. If the afterbirth takes too long to arrive or is incomplete the mare can become seriously ill.
The first milk produced by the mare (beestings) is rich in antibodies which are ingested by the foal on the first day of life. It is crucially important for the foal to drink as much of the beestings as possible and as soon as possible. Healthy foals normally get up on their feet within an hour of birth and start drinking within two hours.
Also check if the foal can pass water and dung within six to twelve hours after the birth. Those foals that are unable to pass dung can be helped by administering a flexible squeeze enema (bought in advance) to make it easier for them to pass the meconium. If the foal cannot pass water this may lead to bladder rupture.

As posted on the KFPS March Newsletter