These factors are magnified in the critically ill foal, said Pamela Wilkins, a professor of equine internal medicine and emergency/critical care at the University of Illinois and the author of a new paper on equine neonatal intensive care. The paper, in Clinical Laboratory Medicine, offers guidance to the large-animal veterinarian and demonstrates the very real challenges of the job.
Sickness can play havoc with a foal’s blood chemistry, Wilkins said. Teasing out the causes of these changes requires that the veterinarian first understand what is normal in a newborn horse, and then how it can go wrong. To help address current gaps in knowledge, Wilkins regularly conducts blood tests or other tests, such as X-rays and CT scans, on healthy foals to determine how their body chemistry or physiology differ from that of an adult horse – or from that of a sick foal.
“Roughly 3 to 7 percent of newborn foals are going to have some kind of significant health issue in the first month of life,” Wilkins said. “And because our patients can’t talk to us, we have to figure out what’s wrong with them based on physical examination and testing and histories given by their owners.”
The paper also offers guidance in the use of portable “point of care” devices to measure and monitor a sick foal’s changing health status. Such tools can offer immediate results in the field and cut costs associated with care. But the practitioner needs to know how use each device and interpret the results, Wilkins said.
“For example, foals with severe infections can have a very, very low or a very high glucose level,” she said. Low blood glucose could be the result of the foal not taking in enough nutrients from its mother. Or the animal may not be able to make use of the glucose that is already stored as glycogen in its body. It’s the practitioner’s job to find out what’s going on, she said.
To do that, veterinarians must understand the normal fluctuations in levels of glucose and other “biomarkers” of health or disease, Wilkins said.
“Horses are a prey species, so they have to be able to get on their feet and run pretty quickly after birth,” she said. “The older and slower I get, the harder it is to approach them. You spend a lot of time on your knees dealing with them, and they can kick. I get bruises all over my body during foaling season and I have no idea where they’re from because I’m focused on what I’m doing.”Add a very protective mother to the equation, and the task gets even trickier.
“Figuring out a way to keep mom from pulling the IV lines out and getting upset when you’re between her and the baby, that takes some doing,” Wilkins said. “The mothers don’t sleep; they don’t lie down; they don’t rest. They’re on their feet with their heads hanging over their babies most of the time. So it’s tough for them.”
If a foal needs surgery, the medical staff will sedate the mom until the foal is back at her side.
Wilkins’ patients may be the progeny of racehorses or performance horses, but many are also just people’s pets, she said. The cost of care can be high, so owners with a strong economic or emotional incentive are most likely to bring a critically ill foal to the hospital.
Despite the many challenges, Wilkins loves the work.
“Foals are just wonderful, wonderful creatures,” she said. “I can’t imagine working with anything else in my life.”
Diana Yates | University of Illinois
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Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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