Umbilical Cord Length and Foal Health

A long umbilical cord increases the risks for abortions and stillbirths in horses. Complications include strangulation of the foal and excessive cord twisting, writes Karin Bosh in a recent edition of Equine Disease Quarterly, a newsletter published by the University of Kentucky (UK).

In a recent study by UK and veterinarians from Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, the researchers found two significant factors that influence umbilical cord length. As the mare age increased, the length of the umbilical cord also increased. Also, as the length of the nonpregnant uterine horn increased, umbilical cord length increased.

The main focus of the study involved placental parameters associated with normal births. The project lasted two years and examined 168 foalings on three Central Kentucky farms.

In other information collected, mares older than 14 years of age had longer gestational lengths, heavier allantochorionic portions of the placenta, and shorter time to a foal's first nursing. Foal weights were lowest among those mares younger than eight years of age.

The researchers observed that in the past, in order to gain insight into normal parameters, scientists have used a set of exclusion criteria to eliminate potentially abnormal placentas. These criteria mostly were associated with abnormal foaling events related to delivery and time required for foals to stand and nurse. However, the latest study found that there were not significant differences in the placental parameters between those classified as normal and abnormal based on foaling events. The finding suggests that such an arbitrary method of classification may not, in fact, separate normal and abnormal placentas.

About the Author

Deirdre Biles

Deirdre Biles is the Bloodstock Sales Editor for The Blood-Horse magazine.

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