Question about Joint Ill in Foals

My foal is doing well behavior wise. He is eating, drinking, playing, sleeping, and acting like a healthy normal foal. The vet said he may be at risk for getting a joint infection and to watch for swollen joints and lameness. This is my first foal and I’m not that familiar with what a joint infection would look like- would it be obvious? Like if I go out and he’s dead lame and the leg is double in size? or is it more insidious? He does not trot more than a step or two. He either walks or canters everywhere which makes it difficult to look for a head bob.

He’s not standing square in this picture at all so that may add some distortion. And another picture of him trying to figure out how to graze with such long legs, just because he is cute.

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When a foal becomes lame, it can be a joint infection from either 1) not getting colostrum in time 2) Mare not producing colostrum 3) foal not absorbing colostrum 4) foal born with infection due to infection inside the mare - usually from a decomposing twin or other uterine infection. If you have access to a veterinarian, it is fairly easy to test the foal’s blood, to check if it has received immunity from the milk, as is what is supposed to happen. If this system has failed and infection is developing, your best shot is to do a plasma transfer, from a donor gelding. If you are not sure, get the blood test done. Your vet will have to be involved to do a plasma transfer. Why does your vet think that this foal is “at risk” of getting a joint infection? What has precipitated this opinion? Why has a blood test not been already taken if the vet is concerned?

We already gave the foal plasma the 2nd day of life. He is also on antibiotics. The vet said to monitor him for signs of joint infection going forward because he is at higher risk.

The only one I’ve ever seen very obviously had a swollen ankle and was clearly sore. She was foaled at a farm in another state and sent to us with her leg wrapped, and as soon as I unwrapped it to change the bandage it was clear that she had either an infection or something else serious like a fracture. She ended up needing surgery to remove a huge chunk of dead bone but was eventually sound enough to race.

If you are handling the foal daily, just keep an eye out for any asymmetry in the joints or signs that the foal is not nursing or playing normally, or is running a temperature (foals do normally have slightlyhigher temps than adults so above 102 is usually considered an issue). The signs are pretty much the same as for any horse with a joint infection.

But since he got plasma and his numbers went up he really shouldn’t be higher risk, I would think.

Boy he is cute!

You know I’m in the same boat as you right now.

With my current filly, at 3 weeks and 1 day old, she came inside from turnout and the behavior change was instantly apparent before any lame as or swelling was present. She was just quiet, lost her spunk, but she was still nursing and doing normal foal things. We started her on antibiotics that night, but by the next day she was lame on her left front- taking steps where she completely dangled the leg.

If you see a swollen joint or lameness, definitely call the vet immediately, even after hours. But any change in behavior warrants a call to the vet. The earlier you intervene, the better the outcome. If you wait until the foal is very sick or very lame, there is a chance you will not get the upper hand on the infection.

The anxiety sucks, doesn’t it?

OK, you’ve done all you can. Wait and watch for any sign that there’s a problem. The foal should be OK. Watch for lameness, or fever, or lack of appetite, or swelling, or any sign of an issue brewing. But hopefully, he should be past the dangerous stage since he was correctly treated.

Did your vet see the swelling in the right hind?

Foals can go downhill very quickly. I had a foal with a joint infection. The joint was tapped and flushed. He was laid down for that. I don’t remember him being especially lame, just had a swollen, hot joint. He recovered well.

Best of luck.

The one I had was extraordinarily lame. And due to septicemia, was lethargic, weak, and unable to stand. His hocks were very swollen and hot to the touch. I would definitely keep an eye on both hocks and/or consult a vet.