In utero purchase. Low IgG in foal

I want to start by saying baby is now healthy after being given plasma. IgG levels are fine now. She’s happy, running, bucking, and acting all normal.

I signed a contract to purchase this foal in utero. The owner of the mare got impatient and at day 350 of mare being pregnant, gave her domperidone. Mare lactated, but no labor. This was not done with vet recommendation or supervision. Day 365, the mare foals. Baby was found later to have almost non-existent IgG levels. The mare’s owner takes them to the vet where baby gets 2 units of plasma and an overnight stay. No other complications.

The contract states I am paying for “routine foal care, including the well-foal vet check after birth, trims, dewormings, vaccinations
and then health certificate and Coggins when foal is ready to go to its new home.”

While I wouldn’t mind paying for emergency vet care if the baby had gotten an injury that was not due to any fault of the mare’s owner. This was both not routine care, and preventable by being patient per the veterinarian recommendation, or taking proper precautions. Mare’s owner admits fault per email. I’m mixed a bit on whether I’m legally supposed to pay that vet bill.

I feel that I should not as it was most likely an effect of early lactation. Plus domperidone has a warning stating the effects on passive transfer.

I’m hoping someone has some insight. I do still really want the foal, and don’t want to risk the mare’s owner canceling the agreement.

You are in a pickle. I don’t know what on earth was going through the mind of the mare owner to jeopardize the health of someone else’s foal. You can’t really be impatient with mares to begin with, let alone when someone has purchased the resulting foal in utero.

Plasma and hospitalization isn’t cheap, but the way I see it, it’s also not an amount of money worth getting in a legal battle over. This is especially true since you want the foal and you don’t really know how courts will interpret the case. To animal people it seems like clear cut fault of the mare owner, but a judge may not see it that way.

It can’t hurt to innocently ask the mare owner who is responsible for the bill and see what they say. But I’d probably prepare to absorb the cost, as irritating as it is. That’s just my opinion, though-- maybe others with more legal prowess will have different insight.

If the mare owner is willing to try to induce labor with someone else’s foal, I would be a little worried what other cockamamie things might be done prior to weaning. Are you close enough in proximity to check on your foal periodically?


Adding another reason pursing legal avenues may not work out in your interests:

In my first post, I was responding to your words specifically. But it would be easy for the mare owner to argue she had a valid concern about insufficient mammary development. Domperidone administration 15 days prior to foaling is within the recommended window of use.

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One dose? Or she started and gave it for 15 days?

Yeah, and no matter how much you would try to convince her that was an invalid argument… I think it was a terrible thing to do without 1) vet input and 2) at least informing the actual owner of the foal

1 dose as far as I know. She didn’t say anything to me until it was already done. Mare stopped producing after a couple days I think. Owner said she went back to regular.

While I agree that domperidone should not have been given without vet advice I am sure at least in the breeder’s mind her liability would have been even higher if the mare was not lactating she did nothing although I doubt if one dose made any difference one way or the other. I don’t know why this is even a question honestly. Pay the bill.


AFAIK 1 dose would not have plummeted the quality of the colostrum. And unless the colostrum was tested, you can’t even know its quality. The almost non-existent IgG level could be entirely the “fault” of the foal, not the milk.

This doesn’t sound preventable at all. Pay the bill.

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The foal was reported to be nursing within half hour and regularly. It’s not the fault of the foal according to any research I can find. I am definitely open and willing to learn more if you have other information I could look at. Everything I have found says number 1 reason for failure of passive transfer is due to colostrum deficiency. And top reasons for that is running milk prior to foaling and early lactation. Both of which happened this time with the domperidone dose as reported by the mare’s owner. If you have an article I could read showing that a normal nursing foal is the one at fault, can you post it by chance? If we’re allowed to do that? I’d like to learn why that happens if that’s the case.

Nursing doesn’t mean anything. Foals can absolutely have FPT due to their body not doing its job properly.

Factors Associated with Failure of Passive Transfer of Colostral Antibodies in Standardbred Foals - Clabough - 1991 - Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine - Wiley Online Library

7 Environmental temperature stress may have an important effect on gastrointestinal absorption of macromolecules by the neonate.

The presence of developmental limb abnormalities may be associated with
concomitant dysmaturity of the gastrointestinal tract resulting in decreased macromolecular absorption.

You also don’t know the level of antibodies in the mare’s colostrum, in order to have any good idea it was low.

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It’s July. Or was when baby was born. So that mostly removed the environmental factor since it’s not a cool season baby. If I read it right? That part was harder to understand. And other than the low IgG, she passed her wellness check with flying colors, has no limb or other abnormalities, and is a normal healthy size and weight. She was reported to be up, nursing, running, and bucking very quickly.

Interesting, though. It makes sense that deformities seen outside would indicate more possible issues that we can’t see. Are there more studies?

Also, the warnings on the label of the domperidone do state that

As with all drugs, side effects may occur. In field studies, the most common side effects reported were premature lactation (dripping of milk prior to foaling) and failure of passive transfer. removed brandname may lead to premature birth, low birth weight foals or foal morbidity if administered >15 days prior to the expected foaling date. Do not use in horses with suspected or confirmed gastrointestinal blockage, as domperidone is a prokinetic drug (it stimulates gut motility). Refer to the prescribing information for complete details.

So while I do see some foal factors in that study, this foal doesn’t really match them. It seems more likely this in my opinion.

It still doesn’t change the fact that the contract signed stated I’m covering routine foal care, and this is definitely not routine in my eyes. Though, I cannot find an actual definition of that for a foal, what I can find is several sites listing what they consider to be routine care and plasma isn’t one of them.

Born in the heat of Summer can be a big temperature stress on neonates.

Lactation can often be stimulated in mares with poor milk production by administration of domperidone twice daily for 2 to 4 days and then once daily for the next 6 to 8 days.
Microsoft Word - Learnmares15_hormther_domperidone_apr09.doc (

1 dose didn’t do anything to compromise the quality of the colostrum, nor cause her to stream milk. It is almost guaranteed to be purely coincidence that 15 days later she foaled. We don’t know what her udder looked like at Day 350.

In the 25 foals (16 foals of mares treated with EQUIDONE Gel and 9 foals of vehicle control mares) evaluated for passive transfer, failure of passive transfer occurred in 13/16 (81%) foals of mares treated with EQUIDONE Gel and 8/9 (89%) foals of control mares.
EQUIDONE® Gel(domperidone) (

8 out of 9 foals from mares who didn’t get Equidone had FTP.

This sounds like a hole in the contract.

It was up to you to have “routine” very clearly defined. It doesn’t matter what others consider routine, it matters what this breeder considers routine. Many breeders don’t consider an enema a routine procedure, but others do. If that wasn’t defined, and this breeder administered one because it’s routine for her, and you got the bill for it, would you pay?

It was up to you to make sure that anything outside of that was to be cleared with you first, barring a life or death emergency. Plasma is definitely not routine, but with an IgG that low, was a requirement.

I realize that in contract stuff, sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know, we make assumptions we shouldn’t, etc.

There is no way to prove that 1 dose of Equidone was the sole cause of a near-zero IgG. There are plenty of other possibilities that have nothing to do with that.


What does the contract say about “non routine” vet care?

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It just states

Blockquote Buyer will be liable for costs of routine foal
care, including the well-foal vet check after birth, trims, dewormings, vaccinations
and then health certificate and Coggins when foal is ready to go to its new home.

It doesn’t say anything about other vet care.

Well that’s a problem. I mean horses tend to need non routine vet care distressingly regularly. Seems weird that non routine care isn’t called out for in the contract


Yeah, looking at it now it is a problem. Something I didn’t really think about at the time, obviously. I had decided in my head if there was a freak injury, I was paying for it. This is very different, though.

If it were my mare and I was selling the foal, and I thought I’d messed up (as she stated in an email to me,) I’d not feel right not paying that vet bill. Like… yeah. If I thought I caused it, I wouldn’t be comfortable not paying for it, I would feel liable. I don’t know. It is a learning experience in any case. We’ll see what she says when she hopfully agrees to have a talk about it. I just have a hard time talking to people and finding the right words, sometimes. Horses are so much easier…

If the mare owner hadn’t given the domperidone, would you be stressing over this as you are?

The mare could’ve streamed milk without it–plenty do. The foal could’ve been low without it–plenty are. You can’t say with any certainty that one caused the other.


No, I probably would not be stressing about it as much. Though it would still be stressful, it would be more along the lines of freak accident. And while there’s no way to 100% prove why it happened. Both of us seem to be in agreement it was probably that.

There’s a reason why it’s important to check IgG, even when everything–everything–has gone perfectly according to the textbook … because sometimes, even when things are perfect, failure of passive transfer still happens.

You have no idea why it happened here.

You have a healthy foal. It cost a little more than you expected. Welcome to horses, this is how it goes.