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Local Vets since 1949

Foal Medicine

EQUINE Rotavirus is one of the common causes of diarrhea in foals under the age of 6 mths. The disease can be spread via faecal-oral route, from infected foals or from non clinical, healthy foals. The virus attaches the absorptive villi in the small intestine and prevents foals from properly absorbing the milk across the small intestine. The protein within the bowel then leads to an osmotic diarrhea, dragging fluid out of the foal leading to dehydration. The faeces can vary from loose cow pad type to profuse watery diarrhea.

Clinically, foal’s present dull, depressed, ‘off the suck’ and dehydrated. They will vary in age from 2 days to 6 months and will nearly always have a smelly, wet tail. Dehydration is the most urgent problem as the foals can become quite ill during the heat of summer.

The disease can become a management problem on horse studs and farms. Sick foals should be isolated from healthy horses and treated with proper medication whilst stalls and boxes need to be cleaned with appropriate disinfectants. Proper fly control program needs to be instituted. The single stranded RNA virus can survive in the environment for up to 9 months

Treatment in the past has relied on the use of fluid replacement products, anti diarrhoeal agents and sometimes antibiotics. More recently however a commercial vaccine against Rotavirus has been developed. The vaccine given to mares in the last few moths of gestation produces antibodies against the virus in the mare’s colostrums. The antibodies consumed in the milk coat the lining of the foal’s small intestine and prevent the development of the disease.