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How a squeeze can save a foal’s life *H&H Plus*


  • For foals who fail to wake fully at birth, an innovative veterinary technique could be the answer. Kelly Harrison-Tait MRCVS explains

    The majority of foals born are fit, healthy and ready for the world, but sometimes things aren’t quite right. One condition that can affect a newborn foal is neonatal maladjustment syndrome, also known as being a “dummy foal”.

    Traditionally, oxygen deprivation to the brain is thought to be the reason for this syndrome, resulting in brain damage and inadequate blood supply to the nerve cells. Oxygen deprivation can result from the placenta coming away abruptly from the uterus before foaling, prolonged labour, prematurity, sepsis and swelling of the brain, among other causes.

    Another, newer consideration is failure of the foal’s mental state to evolve from somnolence within the uterus to consciousness at birth, which normally occurs as the foal travels through the birth canal. The squeezing effect of the canal halts the release of neurosteroids. These keep the foal in a state of unconsciousness in the uterus; if no signal is received to stop their production they continue to be emitted, preventing the foal from becoming fully conscious as he emerges.

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