Even if a fetus is dead before foaling is finished, the time spent manipulating the fetus is still critical. If you are far from an equine hospital where a Cesarean section could be performed to extract the fetus, a fetotomy might be your best option to save the life and future fertility of the mare.

“The aim of a fetotomy is to rapidly decrease the size of a fetus such that safe extraction can proceed,” said Grant S. Frazer, BVSc, MS, Dipl. ACT, professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at The Ohio State University, at the Hagyard Bluegrass Equine Symposium, held Oct. 21-23, 2004. “This avoids the stress and injury that follows from prolonged manipulations and extractions.”

Repeated vaginal entry and internal maneuvers only serve to traumatize the birth canal and increase the level of bacterial contamination,” noted Frazer. He added, “Repeated in and out arm movements are contra-indicated as the mucous membranes of the mare’s vagina and cervix are easily abraded.” The scar tissue created during the healing process can inhibit the mare’s fertility later in her life.

“Most of the unsatisfactory results that are attributed to fetotomy are actually due to lack of experience and poor technique,” said Frazer. “Correctly designed instruments must be available, and the procedure should not be resorted to after prolonged attempts at mutation (fetal manipulation).

“Application of copious volumes of lubricant is essential because the mare’s genital tract is very sensitive to trauma, and the uterus is easily ruptured,” Frazer said.