Trail Tails: Scours

Moriesian FillyEllie turned 3 weeks old today and along with it came Scours.  If you have ever had a foal before you’ll know what I’m referring to.  I could smell the start of them coming on for 3 days, YUCK.  I hate this part of foaling but it is perfectly normal.

What are Scours:
Foal scours is often referred to as foal heat diarrhea as it typically sets in right around the time the mare goes back into heat.  It is quite stinky, messy and but normally it passes without any problem.

Causes:
To be perfectly honest I don’t think even all the vets today can pinpoint exactly what causes scours in foals but there are a few common theories

            Foal Heat: Hormonal changes in the dam’s milk when she goes into her first heat cycle causes digestion issues with the foal.  The hole in this theory, orphaned foals fed milk supplement still get scours.

            Forage: From day 1 the foal will attempt to eat pretty much anything that it can get its fuzzy little lips on.  By week 2-3 the foal is now eating grass right alongside mom and is starting to eat grain. This change in diet from mostly liquid to solids messes with the dynamics of the digestive system.  Foals do not yet have the helpful bacteria and enzymes needed to properly digest solid foods.  This is gross but you will probably find the foal eating the mare’s poop during scours as they attempt to introduce the needed digestive helpers into their system.

Treatment:
First off don’t worry.  All foals go through this phase in life.  Most of the time it is just a really gross, smelly, and messy process for us and it will pass in 4-7 days.

            Internal: I like to give my horse yogurt rich with probiotics to help introduce the good gut bacteria.  I find the babies like the vanilla flavored kind.  I use a 30 or 60cc syringe, suck up the yogurt and squirt it in their mouths.  They usually fight until they realize that it is pretty tasty.

            External: Wash, wash, wash.  This diarrhea is smelly, greasy, and very acidic and it will eat the hair off your foal’s rump.  To help prevent this wash the babies bottom 2x a day with warm water and disposable towels.  (I say disposable because no matter how much Clorox and soap you use on a towel the smell will still be there).  Dry their bum and use mineral oil or Vaseline around their bottom and down their legs.  This will be a protective barrier for the next round of diarrhea.   WARNING: Do not turn baby out if there’s bright sunshine and you just oiled them up. They could get a sun burn.

When to Call a Vet:

Normal body temp is 99-102°F.  During scours your foal’s temperature should remain normal.  Should they run a temperature or the diarrhea last longer than 7 days call your vet.

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