Treating a sick foal is a challenge in itself, but when feral foals arrive one after the other in quick succession, it adds a different level of complexity.
Six weanling foals were transported to the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center (EMC) in Leesburg for emergency evaluation and treatment after being purchased at an auction by Colby’s Crew Rescue, based in Keswick, Virginia.
Veterinary professional with two foals. Megan Marchitello, clinical instructor of equine medicine, works with two of the weanling foals during treatment. Photo courtesy of Megan Marchitello.The foals are the offspring of formerly domesticated animals that had either escaped from or been set free by their owners. They were fearful, suffering life-threatening health issues and being held at a slaughter holding facility before being offered at auction.
The first two foals to arrive at the Equine Medical Center were referred by Gary Kubala of Littlestown Veterinary Hospital in Littlestown, Pennsylvania.
Janice, a three-to-four-month-old filly, had bronchopneumonia and an umbilical hernia. Morocco, a 4- to 5-month-old filly, had swelling on her left hind leg, other minor scrapes and scratches, as well as a disfigured right ear tip, thought to have been caused by frostbite. Morocco also showed signs of facial trauma.
The remaining four and yet unnamed three-to-four-month-old foals arrived soon after, all with bronchopneumonia and superficial wounds, and one with an orthopedic issue.
The foals were initially received for emergency treatment by Krista Estell DVM ’09, clinical associate professor of equine medicine, and transferred into the care of Elizabeth MacDonald M.S. ’15, clinical instructor of equine medicine for continued care. The entire equine team worked together to ensure that these fragile patients received the best care possible.
It became apparent early on that staff would need to spend time each day handling the foals to make treatment less stressful and create a positive interaction with humans. Staff worked on general handling, picking up their feet, and leading.
“The care and compassion that the weanlings received from EMC staff during their treatment and the dedication of their owners gave them the best opportunity for making a full recovery,” MacDonald said.
Once stabilized, the foals continued their recovery at Always There Horse Care in Haymarket, Virginia, under the care of licensed veterinary technician Malena Brisbois. “Each goodbye was bittersweet, but knowing we contributed to their remarkable turnaround made every effort worthwhile,” Brisbois said.
After a couple of months with her pneumonia resolved and her health and body condition improved, Janice returned to the Equine Medical Center for surgical repair of her umbilical hernia.
Sophie Boorman, clinical assistant professor of equine surgery, repaired the hernia. Due to Janice’s history of pneumonia, she was carefully evaluated prior to surgery to ensure that she was healthy enough to safely go through the surgical procedure.
The partnership between the Equine Medical Center, Colby’s Crew Rescue, and Always There Horse Care highlights the outcomes possible when skilled medical expertise is combined with compassionate, dedicated care.
Andrew Mann for Virginia Tech