Researchers Evaluate New Way to Assess Foals’ Fluid Volumes

Changes in the diameter of the caudal vena cava (a large vein that returns blood to the heart from the back half of the body) during respiratory cycles could be used to evaluate fluid volume in foals, researchers found.

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assessing foals
Sick foals can rapidly develop hypovolemia, a potentially fatal condition resulting from low blood plasma volume. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Sick foals, especially those with diarrhea, can rapidly develop hypovolemia, a potentially fatal condition resulting from low blood plasma volume. Veterinarians must administer fluids to these foals; however, this can quickly overload foals’ immature kidneys, potentially causing the opposite problem: hypervolemia.

Veterinarians need to assess foals’ fluid volume quickly and noninvasively, but current techniques for doing so are limited, and clinical signs few, so a research team recently tested a method used in human patients with some success.

Melanie Tuplin, DVM, and her colleagues at the University of Calgary investigated whether they could use ultrasound to measure caudal vena cava (CVC) diameter in healthy foals, presenting their findings at the 2017 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Nov. 17-21 in San Antonio, Texas

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Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

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