Ask the Vet: Foals

Question: What effect does chia seeds have on foals? Answered by Madison Seamans, DVM, MS, Kuna, ID 

Answer: There are anecdotal reports of some weight loss in people eating chia seeds from the Salvia plant, a type of mint from South America. Seeds from this genus of plant appear in the diets of many indigenous people in the western hemisphere and extracts of it are used in some traditional Chinese medicines. Chia seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, as are flax and other whole seeds, but there are no controlled studies about their effects on foals. As the mare’s milk is the perfect diet for a foal, supplementation with chia seeds is probably not beneficial.

Question: I have a one-month-old foal and would like to know which dewormer would be safe to use for their age? 

Answer: Parasite control has changed dramatically over the recent few years. There was a time when treatment for intestinal parasites involved toxic chemicals that could only be administered by a stomach tube. The advent of over-the-counter “paste dewormers” provided horse owners access to safe and effective treatments they could give without veterinary assistance. Unfortunately, there is a lot of parasite resistance to most of the available compounds, so they are not as effective as they once were. It is encouraging, though, that studies show adult horses demonstrate a high degree of natural immunity against intestinal parasites, over 80%, in some populations.

Good housekeeping, daily stall cleaning and composting manure, will keep parasite populations low. Most important, is to test both the mare and foal and treat only those individuals shedding parasite eggs. Judicious use of the drugs designed to kill intestinal parasites will help control rates of infestation and limit the development of resistance in these disease-causing organisms.

Question: I have a 7-day-old foal. Can I use a delution of Dawn dish soap as fly spray?

Answer: Although detergents may be considered “safe”, as they are used routinely all over the world, it should be remembered that they are very caustic substances. This is why these products must be thoroughly rinsed from all surfaces. Left on the skin, detergents can cause severe irritation. Left on dishes, they can cause very unpleasant gastric upset. With this in mind, detergents should not be our first choice in fly repellents, no matter what the dilution, in a foal.

Question: My horse had a foal four days ago in which we had no idea she was pregnant. We just purchased her in May and she has had an all grass diet. I wonder if we should be doing anything for her or the foal. Should we have started giving her grain after she had the foal? Also, the foal has brown stains on its buttocks from manure that looks like diarrhea. Should we also be treating it for anything?

Answer: A well baby exam is always a good idea, especially in cases like this with no history of the mare’s prepartum care (before the foal was born). The foal is exhibiting diarrhea, and this can be an early sign of neonatal septicemia. Even if the foal appears healthy, his condition can decline rapidly. Your equine veterinarian can exam both your mare and foal to provide a good assessment of the foal’s health. A complete blood count on the foal can detect the presence of infection and a test for antibodies called IgG can be a good measure of his immune system. This should be done today or as soon as possible!