NCSU Veterinarians Treat Corolla Foal

Veterinarians at North Carolina State University (NCSU) are boosting the survival odds for a Corolla wild horse foal found weak and underweight earlier this month.

Descended from horses brought to North Carolina by Spanish explorers more than 500 years ago, the Corolla herd resides on privately-owned land located in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Corolla Wild Horse Fund Executive Director Karen McCalpin said the herd's managers were in the field darting mares with contraceptive when they found the foal in mid-June.

“He was exceptionally small and thin,” she said.

The managers transported the foal to the Dominion Equine Clinic, in Suffolk, Virginia, for treatment before he was moved to the NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine for further evaluation and treatment. Once there, veterinarians set to work stabilizing the colt.

“When we got him on June 17, the foal exhibited low blood pressure, low temperature, and low glucose; he couldn't appropriately oxygenate (his body); and his heart rate was low,” said Jennifer L. Davis, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, ACVCP, an associate professor of equine internal medicine. “He didn't get enough oxygen or nutrients in the uterus. “

Veterinarians also discovered urine collecting in the foal's abdomen, Davis said.

Veterinarians stabilized the foal, named William, by administering medication to regulate his blood pressure and to allow him to properly oxygenate his body. William also underwent surgery to repair a tear in his urachus (a tube that connects the bladder to the umbilicus), from which he recovered very well, Davis said.

Veterinarians initially speculated that William might have been born prematurely. But they ultimately believe another condition caused his problems.

“We don't know his birthday, but think he was not premature because he had teeth,” Davis said. “He was more likely dysmature (meaning he was likely born at normal gestational age, but displayed immature physical characteristics suggestive of prematurity); he looked a lot like a dummy foal.”

So-called dummy foals suffer from neonatal maladjustment syndrome and exhibit weakness, lethargy, and an absence of the suckle reflex that allows them to nurse properly.

“Usually, foals recover from this,” Davis said.

Though still under treatment, William is improving, Davis said. Veterinarians have weaned him off medications to regulate his blood pressure and heart beat, but continue to feed him a mixture of milk and goat's milk trough a feeding tube.

“We have a problem with maintaining his electrolytes and he turns up his little nose at eating on his own,” Davis said. “So we are feeding him.”

Davis hopes the situation will change when William is introduced to a surrogate mare.

“We're getting a nurse mare to see how he does with a real horse,” Davis said.

William will remain at NCSU until he is completely stabilized and can eat and drink on his own. But his post-recovery future is uncertain, Davis said.

“He is very bonded to people, so he may never rejoin the herd,” she said.

Meanwhile, McCalpin said that once William is released from the hospital, he will be taken to another equine clinic for more monitoring.

“We hope to send a surrogate mare with him, as well,” she said. “We'll see what happens after that.”

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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