Monitoring Fetal Heart Rate in Horses

Is it possible to hear a fetal horse’s heart rate with a high-quality stethoscope? If so, at about what stage of gestation, and what is the optimal position of the drum?
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Q: Is it possible to hear a fetal heart rate with a high-quality stethoscope? If so, at about what stage of gestation, and what is the optimal position of the drum? I have a 15-year-old Morgan mare that is currently at 240 days gestation, carrying on the right side, and her body condition is between 6 (moderately fleshy) and 7 (fleshy) on the Henneke body scoring chart. I’m not concerned about the health of the fetus, and the mare seems to be thriving. I’m just curious (and thrilled) about the prospects of this baby.

Cathryn Gunther, Cheshire, Connecticut 

A: It would be very difficult or almost impossible to auscultate (listen to) the fetal heart beat through the flank of a pregnant mare. One of the main reasons for this would be that the mare’s intestinal sounds would interfere with your ability to hear the fetal heart beat. Also, the large size of the mare (hence, a large amount of space between her skin and the foal) will add to the difficulty of listening to the fetal heart beat with a stethoscope

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Written by:

Lucas Pantaleon, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, is an equine internal medicine specialist.

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