Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Treating newborn horses: A unique form of pediatrics

07.04.2011
Like any other newborn, the neonatal horse can be a challenging patient. Its immune system is still under construction, its blood chemistry can vary wildly, and – like most infants – it wants to stay close to mom.

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.

“Blood glucose levels are going to be different between the normal, healthy adult horse and the healthy foal,” she said. “And they’re going to be different at different stages of the foal’s life.“ Hormones, immune cells, red blood cells, protein levels, enzymes and electrolytes all vary between the adult and the infant horse, Wilkins said. And many of these markers change as the foal matures and grows.

The challenges of treating sick foals don’t end there, she said. A horse, even a foal, is a big, precocious animal.

“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.
“The mom needs to be there,” Wilkins said. “She gets really upset if she’s not.”
So when a foal comes into the hospital for critical care, the mother comes too. And like any mother with a sick baby, she hovers.

“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
Further information:
http://www.illinois.edu

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht New study shows producers where and how to grow cellulosic biofuel crops
17.01.2018 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

nachricht Robotic weeders: to a farm near you?
10.01.2018 | American Society of Agronomy

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Let the good tubes roll

19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>