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Extension > Agriculture > Livestock > Horse > Horse health > When to call the vet: breeding and foaling problems

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When to call the vet: breeding and foaling problems

Erin Malone, DVM, University of Minnesota

If you own a horse used for breeding or manage a breeding farm, there are certain things you should check for after each use, particularly with natural cover.

Call your veterinarian if the stallion has: blood on the penis, damage to the penis, a swollen scrotum and/or colic. While you wait, safely try to figure out where the blood is from (the mare needs to be checked also), take vital signs that you are comfortable with, and if the penis is out, apply cold water using the hose.

Mares foal very quickly and forcefully. This means if the foal isn't positioned exactly correctly it can rapidly lead to problems, including the death of the foal. Foaling monitors are very useful to be able to identify mares in the process of foaling. Call your veterinarian if your mare is foaling and you see: only one hoof, an upside down hoof, only the nose, a red bag, the water broke and no foal has appeared within 20 minutes, the mare made progress but then stopped for greater than 10 minutes, or the mare colics after delivery. While you wait and if it is safe, wrap the mare's tail, clean the mare's vulva with mild soap and water, open the membranes if the foal is visible or if you see a thick red sac, and keep the placenta, which should be passed within 3 hours.

Foals are very delicate and need careful and quick attention if everything isn't just right. Call your veterinarian if the foal has severe diarrhea, is lethargic or depressed, is not sucking, is not standing within 3 hours, starts to nurse but then seems to forget how, has swollen joint(s), is born greater than 1 week prior to its due date, or if it isn't allowed to nurse by its dam. While you wait milk out the mare if it's safe to do so and keep the foal quiet if it's premature.

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