Foal Temperature Regulation

Are foals born with the ability to sweat, or cool themselves?

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Q: I recently clipped my 1-week-old Norwegian Fjord colt as he was having a hard time with the 95-97-degree heat here in Florida. We at first thought he was really sick with a fever, but after ruling out everything else we (me, my veterinarian, other Fjord breeders, and the University of Florida vet school) felt it was the heat. His temp went up to 105 at one point, but hovered around 103-104 during the day and 102 at night. This happened when he was 3 days old and I body-clipped him the next day, as well as hosing and having him under sprinklers. After about three more days we had a cold front move in and the temps went down to 70-80 during the day and then he was very comfortable without the hosing and sprinklers.

I have done some research and discovered various opinions on when foals begin to sweat to regulate their body temperature. My most informed sources (veterinarians in Florida who have dealt with this problem before) say that foals can begin sweating from around two to six weeks. Until that time if they overheat they can only pant to cool themselves, and this is very inefficient.

My foal had a very thick, wooly coat compared to Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse foals in this area, so I believe this is something that those of us in the warmer climates need to be aware of

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Written by:

Christina S. Cable, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, owns Early Winter Equine in Lansing, New York. The practice focuses on primary care of mares and foals and performance horse problems.

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