High-Risk Pregnancies

Care of the High-Risk Pregnant Mare at the University of Florida Large Animal Hospital

The UF Large Animal Hospital has a rich history of offering state-of-the-art care for the high-risk pregnant mare. Through close cooperation between our specialists in Equine Reproduction and Breeding, Equine Internal Medicine & Neonatology, and Equine Surgery, we offer the best possible care for your mare and foal. Contact us to schedule an appointment.

What is a high-risk pregnancy?

Any condition that jeopardizes the health and well-being of either the pregnant mare or developing fetus constitutes a high-risk condition.

Those conditions can be divided into two major groups:

  • Mares with medical problems prior to becoming pregnant
  • Mares that develop medical problems during pregnancy

Mares with medical problems prior to becoming pregnant

Some mares have health conditions prior to pregnancy that can be exacerbated during pregnancy, thus affecting both the mare and the foal’s health. Examples of pre-existing conditions that require additional attention for the pregnant mare would include laminitis (founder), metabolic syndrome, heaves and equine protozoal myelitis.

Optimizing the condition of the mare prior to pregnancy is an important starting point for the successful pregnancy. Our specialists consider medications and/or diet necessary for managing a condition both at the time of breeding and during the pregnancy. Some medications are necessary for the health of the mare but can put the fetus at risk. Determining the best “recipe” for each mare is our goal.

Mares that develop medical problems during pregnancy

Pregnancy, itself, is a healthy condition in most cases. Occasionally, a mare will develop a condition during pregnancy that jeopardizes the health of her or the fetus. Some conditions, such as placental infection (placentitis), are directly related to pregnancy. Other conditions, such as colic, laminitis (founder) or endotoxemia, can be a consequence or occur independently from the pregnancy but threaten the life of the mare and foal.

Placentitis is the number one cause of pregnancy loss in the mare. The high-risk mare program at the University of Florida specializes in mares with placentitis. Our clinicians are adept at using tools such as ultrasonography to diagnose and track placental infections as well as monitor fetal health in sick mares. Further, we have been actively involved in researching effective treatment strategies for mares with placentitis. Our extensive experience treating placental infections allows us to not only select the optimal treatment plan for the affected mare, but to monitor the response to treatment.

Mares experiencing critical conditions such as colic or infection require special attention. Working with our criticalists in medicine and surgery, we evaluate the overall health of the mare and consider the effect of the pregnancy on resolution of the problem or vice versa. The mare owner is also consulted as we formulate a treatment plan to optimize the health of the mare and delivery of a live foal.

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What does the High-Risk Pregnant Mare Program at UF offer you?

Mares enrolled in the High-Risk Pregnant mare program at the University of Florida are monitored 24/7 for changes in condition or signs of impending delivery. Our reproductive specialists perform ultrasound examinations on a daily basis to verify fetal health and detect changes in the pregnancy. Results from serial ultrasound examinations are combined with tests such as changes in milk electrolytes and blood progesterone levels to allow us to better predict treatment effectiveness and impending delivery.

Furthermore, our team of specialists is present for the delivery of all high-risk pregnancies. Mares admitted to our high-risk program are monitored round-the-clock for signs of impending delivery by our skilled team of veterinary nurses. Providing expedient obstetrical care, our reproduction specialists are skilled at managing even the most difficult delivery. A neonatologist is also present for all deliveries providing immediate assessment of the foal and initiation of treatment when necessary. Rapid response care for the high-risk neonate is an area that distinguishes our program from others.

For the mare with a difficult delivery, our expert surgeons and anesthesiologists are readily available for assisted vaginal delivery under general anesthesia or cesarean section. Through the coordinated efforts of the obstetrical and surgical teams, a mare with dystocia is first managed using controlled vaginal delivery. Concurrently, the mare is prepared for cesarean section so that surgery can proceed if the foal is not delivered in a 30 to 45 minute period. With this system, the foal is delivered as quickly as possible thus optimizing its survival.

Return to UF Equine & Large Animal Reproduction.

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