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Treating newborn horses: A unique form of pediatrics
Date:4/6/2011

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. 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.

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Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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Treating newborn horses: A unique form of pediatrics
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