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Septic foal WHY?/HOW? Bulletin Board » Abortion and Pregnancy Loss » Septic foal WHY?/HOW? « Previous Next »

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Gwen Boles
Username: Gwen

Post Number: 1
Registered: 03-2010
Posted on Sunday, March 14, 2010 - 01:12 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Hi, I've been breeding since 2003 and never experienced the horror i went through this past week.
We had a filly born on saturday am. She was perfect and gorgeously marked like our stallion..
She hollered out at the world twice upon arrival.
Filly was a bit smaller though mare went to 350 days.
I did the usual iodine dip a couple of times and we had her foal exam done to check IgG, heartrate, temp etc..
Vet said her IgG was well within range between 400-800, temp checked out.. and the afterbirth had no holes..
he did comment that her heart was beating like a rabbit and she actually buckled down upon getting her temp instead of fighting..
Filly was very laid back so I didn't think much of it..
We turned her out with dam leess than an hour later..
she went up a hill and proceeded to fall over and buckle in the back..
we were freaked and I hollered at my husband to get her up He picked her up and she walked off..
I called my vet immediately and he just told me to watch her through the day..?!
Well she slept and nursed and played a little. looking back she was not as active as the rest of my foals but i took pictures of her leaping in the air?!!
I watched her up and down nursing thru the night..
The next morning she seemedd sluggish.. i had a dr Att for bloodwork to be done in the next town.. i nearly cancelled but heard her suck vigorously.. I thought i was being a 'worry wart'
afterall she was just checked as healthy just 24 hours ago..
By evening she was sleeping too much.. we went to load her and dam onto the trailer at around 3pm to go to a specailist vet since no vets close were around.. She died in front of us while loading on to the trailer( convulsed, went limp and sqirted yellow feces)
She was DOA after speeding ot the vet.
Vet said she was full of bile!! this is what killed her but we don't know why it happened or how and he couldn't offer anything! the filly passed 3 bouts of maconium after an enema and i saw her poop the yellow mustard pile on day 2.. i thought we were good to go! What could have happened to cause this and how can I prevent it in the future. she went to quick and was so stioc that her subtle signs were easily written off HELP, I'm at a loss and sick over what I could have done different. We've never lost a horse before

Diana Gilger
Senior Stallion or Mare
Username: Kdgilger

Post Number: 2955
Registered: 01-2008
Posted on Sunday, March 14, 2010 - 01:40 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Aw, Gwen, this is so sad!! You're in my thoughts and prayers, and I hope somebody has some help to offer you. I have never had any experience with this either, and am anxious to hear why it happened from an educational standpoint. So sorry again for your loss!

Board Administrator
Username: Admin

Post Number: 2756
Registered: 10-1999
Posted on Sunday, March 14, 2010 - 02:18 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

mare went to 350 days

The average range of foaling is 320-370 days, so your mare was slap in the middle of normal for gestational duration.

I did the usual iodine dip

0.25% Chlorhexidine is recommended over iodine. Iodine is too caustic and can lead to a higher incidence of navel issues.

Vet said her IgG was well within range between 400-800

400-800 is a partial failure of passive transfer. She should have been either supplemented and/or checked again. If the test was done after 15 hours post-foaling, she should definitely have been supplemented.

i had a dr Att for bloodwork to be done in the next town

I'm unclear if you had the test done or were on your way to the Dr's when she died. In any event, with neonates that appear sluggish or "down" the rule is get heavy-duty broad-spectrum antibiotics into them first, and worry about what the bug is later. If you wait for the results of the diagnostics to come back before you commence treatment, you'll often have a dead foal.

i saw her poop the yellow mustard pile on day 2

While newborn feces can often be some strange colours (including yellow) and still normal, yellow - particularly if at all loose - should sound minor warning bells (i.e. watch closely). If coupled with a sluggish foal it's a major alarm bell.

While there may have been other causes, the most likely is neonatal septicaemia. The foal apparently had partial failure of passive transfer, so you know that there was a potential that she did not receive adequate antibodies, and even if there is a good PT, there is s till the possibility of them not having received antibodies against all necessary pathogens and still contacting a non-protected one and getting sick/dying (i.e. even good passive transfer is not a guarantee against septicaemia).

Sadly, as you now know, these little guys can crash and burn so fast it will make your head spin.

Really the only thing to consider is the FPT situation and that you had a foal that "didn't look right". Those are sometimes the only indicators you get, but it's worth reaching for the heavy-duty antibiotics - Ceftiofur sodium ("Excenel") is one often used in that situation. Bottom line, if you have concerns, get a vet out that knows about equine neonates and is capable of diagnosing a treating correctly QUICK. The other thing that is of great value in identifying sick neonates is repeated monitoring of rectal temperature. That will often tell you a lot about the foal's condition and you can see an elevation occur quite rapidly. 101° F is normal, 102° be cautious, 103° you've got a problem, 104° it's a major problem, 105° you're in deep trouble. Monitoring every 3-4 hours in the case of a questionable foal is not unreasonable.

Gwen Boles
Username: Gwen

Post Number: 2
Registered: 03-2010
Posted on Sunday, March 14, 2010 - 02:47 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Hi Jos and Diana, Thanks for your posts.
I live in a rural town in Ky but our vets are usually very educated and capable with equine practice. First, I've never once been told to do the chlorahaxadine. Everyone here does iodine but i have the chlorahexadine ( novalson) already diluted for the next foal..
I'm confused about the 2nd day yellow mustardlike feces.. I've always had this on all foals day 2. it's not watery. This filly's was not either. She acted normally the day before she died ( just 24 hours). She seemd laid back and not concerned about me. she come over curious to greet me but this is how our stallion's foals are?! i don't know what her temp was upon foal exam but right before she died it was still just 101.7?!
Well the filly died upon putting her int othe trailer I believe.. she actaully waked halfway to in following momma but when my husband picked her up to put her in she convulsed..
i saw her breathing still so rushed to a diffent vet that gave her the IgG but it was too late.
Here with our vets, the consider anything over 400 as adequate and that they hardly ever see over 800.. i should have known since all have mine have been over 800 but he told me her blood test was normal. Actaully after she died, my equine specialist that did the autopsty confirmed that her IgG was adequate?! So if it's not over 800, the foal should automatically get plasma??
how come my usual vet did not alert me or find any abnormality just the day before she died?!!
Anyway else she could have picked up this bug? internet says, they usually injest something? Could it have been an abnormality like an intestinal tear on other congenital anomaly.
I'm still in shock over the fast sequence of event and i thought i assured her survival with all that i did :-(( mare had a big milk bag and had been off fescue( or fescue hay) for over 2 months.
Beyond consolation,

Marilyn Lemke
Senior Stallion or Mare
Username: Marilyn_l

Post Number: 2415
Registered: 06-2007
Posted on Sunday, March 14, 2010 - 02:47 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Gwen, it took me some time to compose myself to send this post... I'm so sickened with grief and sadness for you! I too have lost a foal and at another time, a mare giving birth. I know exactly how you feel, but with time, the pain does fade somewhat...

I want to thank you for posting this, as hard as it was for you. It could help others save their own foal someday. I know I've learned some things from this horrible, tragic thing you went through.
What a nightmare!

My deepest sympathy goes out to you and your husband.

Diana Gilger
Senior Stallion or Mare
Username: Kdgilger

Post Number: 2956
Registered: 01-2008
Posted on Sunday, March 14, 2010 - 03:07 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Gwen, I would think that if it were an intestinal tear or other congenital abnormality, it would have been found during autopsy.

Gwen Boles
Username: Gwen

Post Number: 3
Registered: 03-2010
Posted on Sunday, March 14, 2010 - 03:11 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Diana, this was not a thorough autopsy.. Maybe it's called a necropsy ??
It took him about 5 minutes only.. He looked inside and saw she was full of yellow bile. i don't think he looked any further :-(

Board Administrator
Username: Admin

Post Number: 2757
Registered: 10-1999
Posted on Sunday, March 14, 2010 - 04:27 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

As I noted, yellow feces is not uncommon, but I always pay attention to it and also review what else might be going on with the foal. If it persists, that is a cause for concern, or if there are other issues (such as sleeping a lot) then it can be an indicator of an issue. In most instances, it will mean nothing, but as you have seen if things go wrong, they can go wrong fast, so being on top of any issues is important.

I disagree with the concept that "most" IgG levels from foals are 400-800. So do all the research documents and knowledgeable people that I am aware of - including veterinarians that know about neonates. >800 is considered adequate; 400-800 partial FPT; <400 complete FPT.

Supplementation requirement and level of reading will depend a little upon the circumstances. If the colostrum tested well for IgG content, the foal nursed well and is active, and the blood is drawn from the foal at say 9 hours post-foaling, and returns a level 400-800, then almost certainly the reason for the slightly low level is early testing. In that case I would retest at 12 hours and expect to see a level >800. If however the mare's colostrum was not good, there was a problem foaling, the foal did not nurse well or does not look "bouncy", then I would supplement. The advantage of testing at 9 hours post-foaling is that (1) one can then supplement orally using previously collected colostrum (i.e. no cost), or an oral supplement such as Seramune (cost about $80); and (2) early exogenous elevations of IgG levels will (hopefully) circumvent increased exposure to potentially pathogenic organisms (waiting until 24 hours after foaling to test and supplement allows addition time and exposure to life-threatening pathogens).

Note that retesting after supplementation is required to confirm adequate elevation of IgG levels or to indicate requirement for an additional supplementation (we have found that 2 bottles of Seramune may be required).

Levels below 400 always receive supplementation.

Plasma (which is expensive and requires veterinary intervention to administer IV) is required if tests are performed after 12 hours as the foal's gut ability to adequately absorb large molecule proteins (IgG's) is reduced by then.

The foal can come into contact with pathogens in a variety of ways. With an early onset of sickness, it is even possible that the infection was encountered in utero. As noted above, the foal's gut wall is wide open at birth to allow adequate absorption of the large molecule protein IgG's, however it can also absorb bacteria as a result of the gut wall being open. Bacteria are found everywhere of course and in increased areas in some circumstances - one example is that the USDA did a research evaluation of the 1997 foaling season and common links in foals that died within 48 hours after birth and found that those mares that foaled out on beddings such other than hay or straw (in particular wood products such as shavings or sawdust) produced foals at higher risk. This is because wood products harbour Klebsiella pneumoniae. Some other research found that washing the mare's udder prior to allowing the foal to nurse for the first time significantly reduced the incidence of neonatal septicaemia - if you've looked at a mare's udder, you'll have seen how dirty it is, so it makes sense.

Remember too that other sources of access for pathogens to the body include the navel and membranes, so it's not only a possibility of ingestion orally.

I am unclear exactly what you mean by the foal being "full of yellow bile". Because the horse does not have a gall bladder, bile will be present in the gut, but that leads me to wonder if this "bile" wasn't perhaps runny yellow feces...

One other question also springs to mind, although this is less likely as you haven't mentioned it, but perhaps nobody noticed it - was the foal jaundiced at all?

It is always worth having a full autopsy done on a foal, as there are some conditions that could repeat in future foalings but which could be prevented if one is aware of them in advance. A necropsy and autopsy are the same thing.

Gwen Boles
Username: Gwen

Post Number: 4
Registered: 03-2010
Posted on Sunday, March 14, 2010 - 05:16 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Jos, I'm so upset. Both my vets consider anything over 400 adequate and will give the 'all clear' this was our first that was not above 800 as i said...I should have known. I didn't think I needed to question what was being told to me :-(
From now on, if the test is not above 800, Is it automatic plasma? What else do you mean by support? seramune?, antibiotics? I know you adressed this and I'm sorry for being so dumb.. my mind is still swimming and want to be clear what to do when. So after 12 hours, its automatic plasma right?
As I said I've been raising weaned foals since 2003 but have only had our own mares foals here since 2005. so probably 10 foals total.
I did use straw bedding. I didn't know about washing the udder other than getting out the goopy waxy filth between the teats. i will be washing from now on and using chlorahaxadine..
How do you get 4 doses of it or so a day on a faol adequately if they are standoffish and momma is dangeroulsly protective? This wasn't the case with this mare or baby but i'll have some of theses issues with the next mare who is very protective the first 2 days.
this last foal was not jaundiced . Yes, i'm sorry I mean yellow feces.. I thought i was usuing the right term but i guess not....
On the autopsy, i didn't know or realize that I did'nt or wasn't getting a thorough job done..
This vet is highly respected. he told me the deal and didn't have any answers to tell me what caused it. I was a complete wreck and didn't think to ask about abnormalities inside...if he saw anything or could look for it?!!
Also is it ok to premix up( dilute) my new novalson to have it ready?

Username: Jumbletwist

Post Number: 54
Registered: 02-2010
Posted on Sunday, March 14, 2010 - 06:10 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Wow, I'm really sorry. Try not to beat yourself up over it though. You did the most that you could with the knowledge and information that you had. It happened so quickly, we'll all know a little more after your experience here and I thank you for putting it out there for all of us to learn from. Thank you Jos for contributing your knowledge/past experiences related to this tragedy. Again, it is obvious that you would do the right thing if there was something that could have been done under your circumstances...try hard not to blame yourself for anything. You did your best. It's not your fault. There are probably foals that would have died in the past if it were not for your attentive care. Try to just learn what you can for the future. Thanks again for putting it out probably are saving a future foal and don't even know it! Hang in there!

Board Administrator
Username: Admin

Post Number: 2759
Registered: 10-1999
Posted on Sunday, March 14, 2010 - 08:50 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I think if you re-read my post above you will find a lot of your questions already answered... :-)

Don't use Chlorhexidine to wash off the udder, only use warm water. You don't want to make the udder taste unpleasant to the foal.

If you have a problem handling a foal, you just have to deal with it. If you're not good at dealing with aggressive mares, get someone to help you who is an experienced and good handler.

It's fine to mix up the navel dip Chlorhexidine ahead of time.

hedgerow farm
Username: Lotsofponies

Post Number: 9
Registered: 03-2009
Posted on Sunday, March 14, 2010 - 11:44 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Gwen, I'm so sorry for your lost, you could of done every think by the book and still lost the baby. I'm suprized the vet could not give you an answer to why the baby was so sick so fast.

One of my mares was darn right dangerous when she had her first foal. Of course the foal was sick, was to weak to stand and nurse so I had to milk the mare and bottle feed the baby for 4 days. IgG was 0 took 2 plasma infusions to get it up to 800 and he urinated out his navel for 2 weeks, stopped the day before his surgery was planned. His eyes were totally gray from sand abrasions, he was completely blind and had to treated every 3 hours for a month. I chose not to take him to the University hospital because of the expense. The vets didn't think he would live but he did and his eyes cleared up beautifully after 3 months of treatment. They have no clue why he survied, he had just about everythink bad a colt could have.
It was amazing I wasn't killed since I was on my own dealing with the mare except when the vet came.
This is what I learned from my experience:
1. Where a helmet when milking a mare, it took me 2 cow kicks to the head to figure that one out.
2. When handling the foal alway keep the foal between you and the mare and never turn your back on the mare even when leaving the stall.
3. If your foal is sick and the mare acts aggressive give her a Reserpine shot, I wish I would of done it on day one instead of day 8. Doesn't work on all mare but it worked on mine and lasted for 4 weeks.
4. Have footon pad just out side the stall door so you can snatch the foal and work on it out of reach of the mare.
5. Invest in a Udderly EZ and a baby bottle(human baby bottle) it is easier, faster and safer to milk the mare. Now I alway milk my mares and bottle feed the foal before they try to stand. Usually they will drink about 12 - 20 ounces depending on the size of the foal, then usually take a nap for 20-30 minutes. This gives the mare a little time to recoop and milking the mare will soften up the bag and it won't be so painful when the foal nurses. When they wake up they hop right up, usually poop and have no problem nursing, no sucking on everything in site. The first thing in my babies stomach is colostrum not some nasty bug. Plus it is fun to bottle feed a baby.
6. Freeze some colostrum. Get an anti-freeze tester and test the colostrum.
7. Do everything humanly possible to be there at foaling. Invest in a night security camera and pool test strip to check PH and Calcium.
8. Check and Dip navel for at least a week, then keep checking it. The navel is my biggest worry.
9. Handle the mare a lot the month before foaling, I like to feed lots of small meals and mess with her while she is eating, especially around the udders and backend. That way she looks forward to me coming to mess with her.
10. Write everything down.

Gwen,I hope your heart mends soon, big hug for you, your husband and your mare.

Terry Waechter P.R.E. foals
Breeding Stock
Username: Watchman

Post Number: 997
Registered: 01-2007
Posted on Monday, March 15, 2010 - 12:19 am:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

so sorry for your loss and such a distressing experience. I did have the experience of a foal that became infected through the navel even though I followed standard procedure dipping the navel many times in first days of life. We ended up doing surgery and the foal survived and is a robust yearling now. Nevertheless it is very scary...some times bad things happen even after you have done everything you can do. Take care ...

Senior Stallion or Mare
Username: Cjskip

Post Number: 1100
Registered: 03-2008
Posted on Saturday, March 20, 2010 - 08:57 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Gwen, I'm so sorry for your loss.

My first foal had an IgG of 400 at about eight hours post birth. The vet said he was borderline for transfusion at that point. She felt we could ride it out, because I didn't have new horses coming onto the property, but to call her if I saw so much as a sniffle or a tiny eye infection-anything!

He did very well, but I did feed him Seramune, which I had bought from my vet in advance. So he got that, since he was a poor nurser. That probably helped him a lot.

I know all these different things can be so confusing. Jos is obviously an expert. Other people at this site have given me and others, invaluable advice as well, so you have come to the right place.

I really am sorry for your sad loss. Hopefully, any other mares will foal with no problem.

Senior Stallion or Mare
Username: Cjskip

Post Number: 1101
Registered: 03-2008
Posted on Saturday, March 20, 2010 - 09:10 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Oops! I meant to add that I should have had a second IgG done. Then, if the IgG was still low, I would have had him transfused.

Today, regardless of whether I gave Seramune, or he nursed well, or I gave him another mare's colostrum, I would have the second test done. Then, if low, I would get the transfusion, even if the vet said it was probably unnecessary.

We have to remember that sometimes, for some reason, our mares may not have good colostrum, so even if we freeze it ahead of time, or the baby nurse's well, the IgG may not improve enough to protect the foal.

I was lucky.

Michelle Z
Username: Iberianmareinri

Post Number: 25
Registered: 10-2009
Posted on Sunday, March 21, 2010 - 07:41 am:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I am sorry for your loss...please have some small comfort though, your foal's situation has just served to educate many people but most of all, me, as I am a maiden breeder with a maiden mare. I will heed all of this info. I could easily be convinced by a vet not to worry because I have no experience. I was just on the phone last night with a friend who is a vet and we were discussing IgG levels...she did indeed say over 800 was the desirable target. I'm sorry for your loss, very truly sorry.

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