from the Vet Corner Archives

Part of Horse Previews Magazine website. Posted on 04/07/2001; 2:00:00PM.

Veterinary Corner 04/01: Postpartum Checklist

by Sylvia Miller, DVM
Edgecliff Equine Hospital
S. 1322 Park Road, Spokane, WA 99212 * 509/924-6069

Many of you will have foals on the ground by now. Still, it's good to know that we should be doing a routine physical exam on each mare and foal immediately after foaling.

I use the following checklist as a guide.


  • Subjective

  • Maternal behaviour

  • PE: HR ______, RR ______, T _______[ring]F

  • Mucous membranes

  • Gut sounds

    Udder, patency of teats

    Perineal area and speculum exam

  • Placenta inspection + weight


  • T 99.5[ring]F - 100.5[ring]F

  • P 70-100 beats per minute

  • R 60-80 breaths per minute

  • Naval tx with chlorhex solution once an hour x 3

  • Standing within 60 min

  • Nursed within 120 min-- good suckle reflex

  • Defecated--examine perineum/enema?

  • Urinated?

  • Eyes

  • Oral cavity-dental and cleft palate

  • Nasal openings-Equal breathing through both

  • Neck musculature and range of movement

  • Chest wall

  • Limbs

  • IgG determination for FPT within 24 hours of birth.

    Some of the inspection points should be done by a veterinarian. And certainly, if you have any doubts or questions, bring them up.


  • Each placenta should be weighed and completely examined. Save this for your veterinarian to inspect. Things to look for: tears, missing pieces, thin areas, swollen areas, discoloration, areas of hemorrhage, placentas weighing more than 10-11% of the foal's birth weight.

  • If the mare had a difficult birthing (dystocia), be especially vigilant in your exams. You may also want to have blood submitted to determine existing levels of white and red blood cells, and certain of the kidney and liver enzymes, protein, and other systems indicators.

  • "Dummy" foals do not seem to know where their source of nourishment is and have to be continually guided. They may or may not be covered in meconium. These foals need extra help for the first few days to weeks of life, and may need intensive care.

  • Foals seem to be especially prone to gastric ulcers, and may even be born with them. Any foal acting painful-lying on its back and kicking, or looking at its flank repeatedly-should be seen right away.

  • Limbs should be examined for symmetry, angular deformities, lax tendons, lack of adequate bone development (radiographs).

  • There are congenital and inherited conditions that may be present in foals, such as cataracts in eyes, an incomplete colon, or a ruptured bladder.

  • There are a few "bedside" tests available to assess IgG levels. It requires a small sample of blood from the foal within the first 24 hours, and if low, the blood should be submitted to a commercial lab. These values will change within the first week of life, so it's really important to get that first sample within 24 hours.

  • The activity of the foal immediately after birth is not always an indication that everything is okay, but it may be your only means of measuring health if a complete foal exam has not been done.

    May you have a prosperous foaling season!

    Sylvia Miller DVM

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