The Horse

FEB 2018

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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16 THE HORSE February 2018 getting ready, but they don't narrow down the time of foaling to an actual day." There are, however, things you can monitor to make sure the mare is progressing normally in preparation for foaling. "The classic physical change is mam- mary development, or a significant increase in udder size," says Robyn Ellerbrock, DVM, Dipl. ACT, a PhD candi- date at the University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign's College of Veterinary Medicine. This can begin two to three weeks before foaling—further out than this can signal problems such as placenti- tis (inflammation of the placenta). As the mare gets closer to parturition (usually in the last two to three days of pregnancy) she'll begin accumulating dried secretions on the tips of her teats, a process known as waxing. "It is important to realize that we are talking about probability, rather than a definite time frame, when we see a mare waxing," says Tibary. "About 90% of mares will foal within 24 to 48 hours, but some mares wax longer. A mare might wax very briefly or for several days. Last year we had a mare at the hospital that waxed for about a week. That might be due to being in the hospital where there is a lot more going on; if the mare doesn't find a quiet time she may delay foaling." Other signs include relaxation and elongation of the vulva, as well as soften- ing of the pelvic ligaments around the tailhead. "Sometimes you can also see an actual change in the shape of her abdomen as the foal is repositioning and preparing to enter the birth canal," Ellerbrock says. "All of these are good indications that the mare is progressing normally in pregnancy, as long as she seems fine and remains healthy," says Tibary. "For the purpose of making sure someone is there in case there is trouble, however— particularly for maiden mares or mares that have had problems in the past—we need something more precise. Most of the research over the past 40 years has been focused on finding more precise ways of predicting when the mare will foal." Check on late-gestation mares several times daily (at feeding time, for instance). As physical signs of parturition progress, you can institute round-the-clock moni- toring using cameras and other devices we'll describe in a moment. Behavioral Changes If you know your mare's normal behavior and habits, you can pick up on the subtler changes that indicate impend- ing labor. Mares usually begin showing behavioral signs of early labor (Stage 1) one to four hours before going into active labor (Stage 2), although some mares show signs of early labor for more than a day. These include: ■ Acting restless and alert; ■ Lying down or getting up and down more frequently than normal; ■ Pawing, tail-swishing; ■ Lifting the tail and turning around to look at or bite the flanks; ■ Pacing around the pen or stall; ■ Sweating; ■ Curling the upper lip in the flehmen position; ■ Making unusual mouth movements and yawning; ■ Urinating and defecating small amounts frequently; ■ Going off feed or eating less than nor- mal; and ■ Dripping or streaming milk. For some owners it can be challenging to differentiate between signs of early labor and signs of colic, because both cause discomfort. Most mares show subtle colicky signs during first-stage la- bor when experiencing initial uterine con- tractions and repositioning of the fetus. Many mares circle or look like they are preparing to lie down. "As more contrac- tions occur, they usually start sweating— particularly on the neck, shoulders, and flanks," Tibary says. For this reason it's important to moni- tor the mare's water intake and manure production. If both are normal she's probably foaling, not colicking, says Ellerbrock. Tibary says the best-qualified person to observe the mare is someone who knows her and how she behaves daily in the stall or pasture. "That person can pick up on subtle behavioral changes, when she is acting a little different—more alert or worried," he says. "Mares have a typical routine through the day. If a mare starts behaving a bit different from her normal routine, this is a sign that something is changing." Predicting Foaling One sign of impending parturition is softening of the pelvic ligaments around the mare's tailhead. COURTESY DR. ROBYN ELLERBROCK COURTESY DR. ROBYN ELLERBROCK Twenty-four to 48 hours before foaling, mares' teats typically begin waxing.

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