Dummy Foal is the term given to foals that lack normal developmental instincts at birth and does not indicate that your pride and joy is stupid.
Newborn foals with this problem do not have the natural instinct to nurse and this is a developmental condition that is usually of brief duration. These foals are also sometimes referred to as “Sleepers” or “Wanderers”.
What is The Neonatal Maladjustment Syndrome?
Veterinarians categorize this condition as The Neonatal Maladjustment Syndrome. Foals suffering from this syndrome behave abnormally for a number of reasons. One of the most common is the lack of oxygen due to the premature rupturing of the umbilical cord. It is often due to dystocia, septicemia or low glucose levels.
A Dummy Foal with mild symptoms will lack the foal suckling response and may be disoriented and irritable. It may wander aimlessly around the stall, not appearing to know where it is or what it should be doing.
One with more severe symptoms may have seizures or even become comatose. In either case, treatment should be started immediately. Waiting and expecting it to improve without treatment will probably result in the loss of the foal. If you suspect that your foal has this condition, call your Veterinarian immediately.
Many of these neonatally maladjusted foals will return to normal within a few days with farm-administered therapy. This often includes giving the foal glucose, oxygen and oral or intravenous nutritional support.
Encouraging Foal Suckling
Your Veterinarian will advise you of the proper treatment. We have also found that these foals often will drink water to satisfy their hunger. If this is the case, we raise the water bucket to a height where the foal cannot reach the water, but the mare can.
This encourages the foal to nurse from the mare, accept a bottle or drink from a bucket in order to satisfy its thirst. Newborn foals do not normally drink water. They satisfy their thirst with milk. If they are drinking water, they are not receiving the necessary nourishment.
In severe cares, where the foal does not exhibit a suckling response, the Veterinarian will usually milk out the mare and feed it the milk through a tube.
As frightening as this condition may seem, a foal exhibiting the “Dummy Foal” symptoms, if properly treated, will almost always develop normally. They will quickly adjust and within days are learning and reacting as would any other normal foal. At maturity they will generally perform the same as those who were foaled without the problem.
Read more about Newborn Foals with this link.
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