What is a “dummy” foal?

What is a “dummy” foal? Can they survive?

Written by Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue, Inc. (HOP)
Reprinted with permission, all rights retained by HOP.

Dummy Foal Heart of Phoenix
Photo Credit: Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue, Inc.

A dummy foal is a foal that did not get the stupor inducing chemical squeezed out of it during the birthing process. All foals are in essence, “drugged” as they enter the birth canal. This keeps them from struggling and doing real damage to their mother on their way out. At some point, (probably when the chest/stomach are sliding out) they get squeezed in a certain way that reverses this chemical.

Madigan hypothesized that a possible reason neurosteroids might persist and prompt NMS-like signs in some foals is that normal signaling events during the birthing process don’t take place properly. For instance, he said, if a foal passes rapidly through the birth canal or is delivered via cesarean section, normal transition signals that prompt a reduction in fetal pregnane levels might not take place, leaving the foal with elevated neurosteroid levels.”

(In this little palomino’s case, his mother did not lie down at all to foal and so he fell out of the birth canal very rapidly) Here is the link to our post about the Madigan Procedure (which our KY volunteers actually used to save the dummy foal pictured here after failing at their first attempt trying it)…. HOP Foal Album on Facebook

So in a “dummy” this did not occur. The foal remains in a stupor, with a very weak suck reflex and really no idea that it has a mother or should be looking for milk. They may stumble around the stall in a dull manner or try to sleep a lot. 80% of the time, these dummies can be saved, but it means hand milking the mare every hour and a 1/2 and feeding the foal every two hours for about 10 days. It is exhaustive labor and at the end of 10 days (when it wears off), very difficult to get the foal to then learn how to nurse. Many people do not realize they have a dummy; not even being familiar with what dummy foal syndrome is, and assume all is well in nature. These unidentified babies will die in less than 48 hours.

Dummy foal syndrome is officially called Noenatal Maladjustment Syndrome. Most people who have heard of it do not know it by that name so we chose to refer to the common one.

Editor’s note:  For more great articles, like this one, be sure to visit HOP on Facebook and take time to go through the Educational Photo Album where they share insighftul information about some of the horses they have helped.  (Caution: HOP rescues some seriously sick and injured horses, some images may not be suitable for children.)


About HOP

Founded on January 1, 2009, Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue, Inc. is 501(c)3 tax-exempt charity in West Virginia that helps horses, ponies, and donkeys in need in West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky.

Your generous donations are tax deductible and will go a long way towards helping abused, abandoned, and neglected horses in crisis.  As of December 2014, HOP had rescued more than 200 equines.

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