Bint Al Bahr Arabians

Preservation Breeders of Straight Babson Egyptians


Please Pass the Pepto!

 By Diana Johnson  © 1999  published in the Pasha Chronicles

Foal scours can be one of the scary issues that can arise in your newborn foals development. With the warm spring and summer weather found in most parts of Arizona , the loss of fluids caused by the diarrhea can cause dehydration. Foal diarrhea starts in most foals around day five to seven (at about the same time the mare begins her foal heat although the timing of the two events is coincidental.)

        Foal diarrhea can be caused by many things including:

The natural process of the foal starting to eat hay/grain that it's digestive system is not yet equipped to process.

The natural process of eating the dam's manure in order to transfer the necessary digestive bacteria into its own gut.

Diarrhea can be a symptom of  an illness.

Threadworm eggs or other parasites can come through the mare's milk.

        Prevention techniques you may want to try:

Deworm the mare 4-6 weeks before foaling and again within 12 hours following foaling using an Ivermectin product.

Give Equine Endotox to prevent diarrhea caused by E-Coli. This product is a gel and is available through your veterinarian. Give 10 ml orally to foals less than 12 hours old.

Use a tube of pro-biotic gel to introduce beneficial microbial bacteria into the gut. This is also available from your veterinarian. FoIlow the directions on the label.  This is often give at a few hours after birth so read your label and have a tube on hand.

Yogurt can be used before or during the onset of diarrhea symptoms.  I give them about a half a cup or more of yogurt from a dose syringe or in a small bucket hanging on the fence. Boysenberry and Strawberry seem to be the favorite flavors at our farm. Make sure the yogurt is labeled as "Live Active Culture."  This can be given frequently.  It would be very hard to overdose the yogurt so give lots!  Yogurt from a health food store will have the best active culture.

Take your foal's temperature for several days so you have a base line of what is a normal temperature for your foal. Foal temps usually run about 1  to 1.5 degrees higher than an adult.

        Solving the Problem:

Consult with your vet at the onset or even earlier during the post foaling exam about medication or any other advice he may have for you about it. Write what she says down so you will have it handy IF you need it.

Observe your foal carefully. Call your vet immediately if your foal runs a temperature, is depressed, lacks appetite or seems dehydrated. Foals can go down fast especially in summer.

Monitor mare's udder, if full or overflowing, this could be the Ist sign you have a sick foal.

Keep a supply of Pepto Bismol or Kaopectate (or the generic brands) available and ready. We use both but found that foals prefer the taste of the Kaopectate. To save money, we use the generic versions of both. Generic Kaopectate is available at Walgreen's under the brand name of"Walgreen's Concentrated Anti-Diarrheal". Pepto Bismol or its generic brands can be found in most grocery stores. At our breeding farm, we buy the "maximum strength" version under the Top Care line at Fry's. There are many other similar products out there on the market.  Your vet can advise you as to the dose.  Not a bad idea to ask the vet during the after foaling exam so you have the dose in case you need it.  Keep in mind that you need to watch for the firming up so you do not create constipation by over treating.

Yogurt, Pepto and Kaopectate can all be introduced to the foal if diarrhea is severe.  You can give as much as you like of the yogurt.  It helps to establish friendly flora and bacteria to the intestinal tract.

We teach our foals to lick the "medicine" out or a small bucket. Our foals usually meet us at the bucket and lick up the contents while we are performing other chores. The mares normally leave the bucket alone although we do have one mare with a strong taste for Strawberry Yogurt.

When using yogurt, consider adding activated charcoal to the yogurt. Crush the tablets or open the capsules obtained at the local pharmacy, and dump the contents into the yogurt. It looks terrible but tastes the same. This helps absorb toxins that may be produced in the gut.

Provide shade. Even if the foal won't use it and insists on baking on the hot dirt/sand/grass, you’ll feel better.  Shade cloth stretched between two pieces of PVC will work if you need quick shade.  If diarrhea is very liquid make sure that foal stays cool in the shade as a foal can dehydrate very quickly.

Observe your foal to see whether the treatment is working. Continuing treatment after the problem is solved can cause constipation.

Sometimes foal scours can turn into a sick foal when too much of the normal intestinal flora is lost and opportunistic bacteria take over. Watch to see that the foal stays bright, alert, playful and nursing well.

        Cleanup Hints:

Wash the foal's legs and "buns" with warm water and Ivory soap. Then apply a zinc-oxide ointment to cover affected area.  It keeps the diarrhea from sticking so much and protects the skin from irritation. If you prefer Vaseline apply it only at night or on a foal living in an enclosed stall. The Vaseline can cause "sunburned buns" while the zinc-oxide ointment will act as a sunblock.  There are zinc-oxide ointments on the market now that are easier to clean off.  Read the labels to as you select the product.

If your foal won't tolerate washing process. Try the "automatic cleaning system" of applying a liberal amount of baby oil to the foal's tail. This will help loosen the residual gunk on the tail as well as the areas touched by the tail. This can only be used at night or on enclosed stall foals due to the potential for sunburn on the exposed oiled skin.

Although foal scours can be a normal and natural part your foal's development, it needs watching and treatment and should not be ignored.  I hope that this information will help you and your foal through what can be an uncomfortable and scary time.  

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