Foal Diarrhea or foal scours can either be harmless or quickly fatal without treatment, depending on the cause.
In many cases, treatment of these foals is difficult to do on a farm; they may need intensive care at a clinic, caring for foals with fluids and antibiotics. Often they need plasma if they are sick because they didn’t get enough colostrum.
Your foal may need blood work done to find out how best to treat them if the diarrhea is infectious. It is best practice to closely monitor the foals fluid, electrolyte and glucose status because they lose a lot through the diarrhea. It is common when foals lose a great amount of sodium, that they may have neurological problems—becoming depressed or behaving in strange ways.
It will probably be necessary to administer IV (intravenous) fluids to a foal with severe diarrhea. This can be a very difficult situation unless the farm is equipped to deal with such a problem.
If it is not that severe, the important thing is to make sure the foal is still able to nurse regularly.
The main thing you can do as a horse owner is to keep close track of your young foals, and call a veterinarian immediately if a foal shows any hint of a problem. Early intervention is extremely crucial. Do not wait for the foal to show severe diarrhea.
A foal’s condition can change and go downhill very quickly. It is always best to consult your vet at the first sign of foal diarrhea.
A nursing foal will receive colostrums from the mare. This can provide antibodies that may give the foal protection against some of the more infectious types of horse diarrhea.
The foals that get adequate amounts of colostrums, by nursing immediately after birth, usually have more resistance than foals that don’t get enough colostrum.
It is important to make sure the foal nurses enough, and soon enough. If the mare is dripping milk before she foals, she is losing those precious antibodies.
Milk the mare and put the colostrum in the freezer—to give to the foal with a bottle as soon as he’s born.
If a foal does not nurse quickly, it’s a good idea to give the foal colostrums, by way of some of the milk you have saved from a bottle.
There is not much you can do to protect your foals against clostridium and salmonella, other than taking good care of the mare—so that her health is good, and she foals in a clean place.
Strict cleanliness when handling the foal is also wise—using gloves or very clean hands when touching the foal for any reason. Avoid touching the umbilical area, and keep the stall very clean.
Isolate any sick foals immediately from other animals on your farm. That way you can avoid the risk of spreading the germs of foal diarrhea and horse diarrhea in general.
Some people treat a mare for parasites right after foaling, to keep the foal from being infected soon after birth.
This tiny worm can cause mild diarrhea in foals and can make a foal more susceptible to infection. It’s always a good idea to keep the mare properly dewormed before foaling, and to treat the foal for worms at about six weeks of age.
If the foal is less than three days old, stops nursing, becomes depressed, or if the diarrhea is profuse or bloody, the foal should receive immediate veterinary attention.