The first was a huge foal and was perfectly fine once born but died within minutes. Just stopped breathing. The foal was two weeks over its due date.
A week later, in a different barn, another mare had a foal, born on its due date. The placenta came away while it was being born and it was a struggle to keep it going. Unfortunately it died within a day and a half.
About 5 weeks later another mare foaled, this time two weeks early. Again the placenta came away with the foal. The foal was very alert, had all the normal signs etc. The foal got up and was able to suckle etc but on the 2nd day took a turn for the worst and had to be PTS.
The vets stated that the loss of the last two foals was due to lack of oxygen/blood while being born, but nothing on the possible cause of this.
All mares had bloods and swabs etc and nothing was found for EHV, although I am not sure if EVA was tested for. Also none of the mares showed any infections. None of the foals were post mortemed.
I know it is hard without the post mortems to make any judgements but does anyone have any thoughts?
Nothing had changed in the regime and this person has never had any loses like this. The mares had previously all had good births and it was the persons own stallion whom they have used for several years.
Just wondered what peoples thoughts were as this person is understandably worried for next year.
First - There's no such thing as a "due date" in the equine!!!! The average range of gestational duration is anywhere between 320 and 370 days. One should not therefore use terms such as "overdue", "late", "early", "due date" etc. as they are really meaningless with the equine, and lead to people thinking in human terms where there is a very narrow window of "dueness". That's not the case with the equine...
Your post has really gone a long way to answering your own questions!
Foal 1: Large foal - quite possibly had a problem in passage through the birth canal, leading to hypoxia.
Foal 2 and 3: Premature placental separation resulting in hypoxia, putting the foals in the "high risk" category for HIE-related issues or even septicaemia.
I don't particularly see anything there that is not explicable under the circumstances. It is entirely possible that there were other factors that resulted in the losses, but the facts presented can in themselves explain those losses.
Were all the foalings attended? Was assistance rendered where necessary? Was oxygen available for the mare and/or foal? Were IgG levels in the foals normal, or even tested? To take it a level further, how old were these mares? What were the mares uterine and cervical conditions like? Is there any possibility of fescue grass or endophyte exposure? All of these are questions that the breeders should be asking in order to try and find a common denominator, although there may not be one to find.
All the foalings were attended. The owners where there for each birth and caught the mares just as they were starting to foal.
The first birth needed two people to help pull. The foal was alive, then kicked for a few seconds and then died. But it was very large compared to previous foals.
The second foal was almost dead once the mare had pushed it out. The birth was very quick. The owners fought to keep it alive and vet was in attendance very quickly to administer steriods etc. The foal perked up by evening and the mare was milked constantly to give the foal collostrum and milk (via bottle & every two hours) but started to decline on the second day and died in its sleep on the evening of the second day.
The third foal was born out in a field mid morning, again owners at the birth. Foal was keen and alert and trying to get up etc. Moved the mare and foal to the barn and again the vet arrived soon after. The foal had a small amount of fluid in the lungs so antibiotics were administered. The mare was milked to take off collostrum to the foal. After an hour foal was up and suckling and thriving. The following day it was still going strong, the vet was out in the morning and gave it the all clear, however the second night the owners noticed the co-ordination was going. The foal was still trying to get up and could still suckle. The vet was then called out as the foal looked to be in a lot of pain. On examination the stomach was in spasms, so painkillers were given. The vet was concerned with the lack in co-ordination and put this down to the possibility of brain damage due to the placenta coming away early.
The following morning the foal was still the same but very alert, the co-ordination had deteriorated slightly (when up on its feet it could only move towards the right and could not keep its head up) and the owners decided the best thing for the foal was to put it to sleep.
The age of the first mare is 12, the second 13 and the last 17.
I am not sure what the uterine or cervical conditions were like. Can I ask what you mean by fescue grass and endophyte exposure?
In looking at the common denominator, there appears to be a cause for hypoxia in each case. That does not mean that it has to be a common cause, but that the hypoxia is the commonality. Without a greater degree of diagnostic work performed at the time, one would be in danger of creating an imaginary "cause" if one were to hypothesize beyond that. This in turn could lead to erroneous conclusions and panic and/or frustration on the part of the mare owner[s], which would be counter-productive.
If you do a search on Google for "endophyte +fescue +mare" you will get a variety of excellent articles that discuss this problem.
Thanks for the links will go and take a read of a few of them.
I have also today been reading up on Hypoxia and in a few articles read that foals can make a recovery after a few days with the correct treatment. I only hope my friend did not put her foal to sleep too early........she would be devastated to think that...
What are your thoughts on the recovery from hypoxia from what I described above. All that had happened with the foal was the lack in co-ordination, so was she too quick to make the horrendous decision to PTS?
Some foals recover some do not. I have seen foals that one would not think would recover do so, and others that you would think were "marginal" cases not.
There are treatments that are possible and may have had an impact if tried - for example foals that are having seizures as a sequela often respond favourably to i.v. DMSO.
I have had foals that could not get up by themselves for 3 or 4 days. One had to get them up to nurse every hour - once they were up they were fine. Then at the end of that 3 or 4 days, all of a sudden they were getting up by themselves.
The brain is a funny thing...
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