The moment your foal takes its first breath of air, you are less likely to be concerned of the happenings inside his GI tract. But there are several GI problems which may occur and some of them can even be life-threatening. Therefore, it is important to watch out for any clinical signs that point to GI problems. A foal’s digestive system is susceptible to various problems especially in the first few days after birth. Foals usually cannot tolerate abdominal pain as opposed to adult horses. But the good thing is that colic is experienced rarely among these very young horses compared to the adult ones.
Clinical signs of GI problems in foals remain consistent and they include fever, diarrhea, abdominal distension, spending more time lying down, depression, and difficulty in defecating. Here are some of the common digestive problems experienced by foals.
Meconium impaction is a common type of colic experienced by neonatal foals aged 12-24 hours. Normally, the first stool or the meconium, is excreted shortly after the foal consumes the special milk produced by the mare called colostrum. However, there are occasions when the foal cannot excrete the meconium successfully. That is when the problem usually starts.
The colostrum is produced immediately following the birth of the foal. It contains immunoglobulins necessary to protect the foal from harmful bacteria keeping him healthy until such time his immune system develops properly, which would be at around 8-10 weeks.
A veterinarian will perform a digital examination to confirm the presence of meconium impaction. This condition can be corrected using enemas or oral laxatives. It is not recommended for horse owners to remove the meconium manually from the rectum as this can cause damage to the rectal mucosa.
Even though foals are born healthy and sterile, 50% of them can still develop gastric ulcers. The severity of these ulcers may vary and some foals can exhibit only minor signs. Anti-ulcer medications such as equine omeprazole AbGard can be considered given that the foal is four weeks older or more. Equine probiotics can also be used and is trusted by many horse owners to support healthy digestive system in foals.
Diarrhea can be a life-threatening condition because of possible severe dehydration. However, this condition has better prognosis when it comes to management compared to other illnesses in foals. It is important to address the cause of diarrhea; this also makes it easier to find a more appropriate treatment.
Bacteria, parasites and viruses can cause diarrhea. Less commonly, gastric ulcers and lactose intolerance can also cause the condition. Treatment involves giving antibiotics, as well as fluids to prevent dehydration caused by diarrhea.
Equine probiotics can be helpful to treat several problems involving the GI tract. It helps keep the digestive system fully functional. Generally, equine probiotics are often recommended for use in horses and foals with gastrointestinal problems as well as those that are taking antibiotics. For a good choice of probiotics for horses and foals, trust AbActive.