First 24 Hours
If the foal seems weak and not acting normally, you should contact your veterinarian. A normal foal will stand and move around within the first 2 hours. By 3 hours, the foal should have located the teat and nursed. Foals that fail to locate the teat and don't nurse within 3 hours will need some assistance. It is highly recommended to administer a foal enema to every foal as soon the foal is able to stand.
At times, foals refuse to nurse just because they have not passed enough meconium (first dark stool), even without showing obvious signs of a meconium impaction. Bottle feeding the foal with the mare’s colostrum or frozen colostrum may be an alternative if the foal fails to nurse on its own within the first 5-6 hours from foaling. At this time you should contact your veterinarian for advice. The foal may require tube feeding with colostrum by your veterinarian if it fails to nurse by 8 hours from foaling. The goal is to have adequate colostrum intake before the first 12 hours. The volume of colostrum necessary for the first 12 hours depends on the quality of the available colostrum and the size of the foal. Normally, a volume intake of 1,000 mL of colostrum in the first 12 to 16 hours is adequate. At birth, the foal’s intestinal cells are able to absorb the large immunoglobulin molecules from the colostrum. However, after 12 hours there is very little or maybe no absorption of colostrum. This is why early intervention is important! Intake of colostrum during the first 24 hours is also important to protect the foal’s intestines against diarrhea. Commercial colostrum sold in stores should only be used as a supplementation and not as a replacement of colostrum. Colostrum from other species will not provide adequate immunity to newborn foals. The newborn foal is immunologically naive at birth. The placenta of the mare does not allow the transfer of large immunoglobulin molecules that would provide resistance to infections. Therefore, the newborn foal needs the colostrum intake in order to obtain the immunoglobulins to fight any infections. A foal that fails to obtain the passive immunity from the mare is at risk of becoming sick and may eventually die. A very simple blood test can be performed by your veterinarian when the foal is 16 -24 hours old to check for adequate colostrum intake. Foals that have failure of passive transfer or poor colostrum intake can be treated by receiving a plasma transfusion. Leakage of colostrum prior to foaling can also affect the quality of colostrum intake by the foal and it should be discussed with your veterinarian.
Navels are treated every 8 hours for the first 24 hours. It is recommended to dip the navel with either a diluted 0.5% chlorhexidine solution (the number one choice) or a diluted betadine solution while avoiding strong iodine preparations. If iodine is the only solution available then you need to make sure that the solution is 2% diluted iodine. Stronger iodine solutions are likely to cause burning and necrosis of the navel and predispose navel infection and patent urachus (urine dripping from the navel). Remember that newborn foals don’t roll. If the newborn foal is rolling, switching the tail, or positioning the legs flexed when lying down and restless, a likely cause is colic. The most common cause of colic in the newborn foal is meconium impaction. The meconium impaction can occur up to 24 hours from foaling, even if the foal has already passed some meconium. Signs of colic in the newborn may also be a sign of a ruptured bladder or a discomfort that precedes diarrhea. If you notice any signs of discomfort in your foal, do not hesitate calling your veterinarian for care instructions.