From the Foaling Barn

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When Disaster Strikes: Retained Placenta Revisited

My seven year-old broodmare, Shin N In The Finals (Shiney), foaled February 16. She had a easy labor and delivery: the foal was healthy and strong. However, three hours after the birth Shiney had made no progress in delivering her placenta. I gave her two Oxytocin shots to help her contract her uterus and expel the placenta, but still there was no sign of the placenta after four hours. Finally, I phoned the on-call vet, and she met us at the barn within the hour. She very carefully removed the placenta manually and asked us to start Shiney on sulfa in the morning. The next morning, Saturday, Dr. Brian Dahms, our regular vet flushed Shiney's uterus. He suggested we take her and the foal into the arena to let them move around. On Sunday morning, Brian flushed her again and noted that she had a slight temperature. On Sunday night, my husband noticed Shiney was sweating and rejecting her grain. We took her temperature: she had a fever of over 104. We called Brian and he had us give her Banamine orally. Her temp came down to 101. But the next morning when Brian again came to flush her, she had spiked a fever of 105.4, and her urine appeared to have blood in it. We immediately loaded Shiney and the foal into our two-horse and rushed them to the vet clinic, where they would remain for the next ten days.

For five days we had nothing but bad news. Shiney quit eating and drinking, and her milk dried up. Although the vets pumped her full of liquids, she remained dehydrated and her kidneys began to show signs of stress. On Tuesday, she developed severe colitis: on Wednesday she began to founder. The vet techs were offering the foal bottles of milk replacer every two hours.

Finally, on Friday Shiney began to stabilize. We had put her in Air Ride Boots, which fortunately we had on hand. This alleviated some of the pain in her feet and allowed her to stand comfortably. Her bloodwork began to improve, and she started nibbling at her hay. She improved very gradually over the next five days, turning the corner when we brought hay from home and she began eating enough to form normal manure.

Six weeks later, the foal is nursing again and is completely off replacement milk. Shiney looks great. She still has residual pain in her left foot. We bought her new Soft Ride Boots with orthotics designed for laminitic horses.We have decided not to let her carry her own foal this year and will instead pull embryos, but we are cautiously optimistic about her breeding future.

Even though we were conscious of the risk to our mare, and we aggressively treated her for the retained placenta, we were unable to avoid a near catastrophe. I console myself with the thought that had we not been so vigilant Shiney would surely have died.  In the future, I plan to take the temperature of all my mares for the first three or four days after foaling. In addition, I will be extra watchful of mares who do not pass their placentas within three hours.


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