At the close of January 2020, 44 foal deaths had been reported to the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (UKVDL) because of nocardioform placentitis. (This number includes all breeds of horses, not just Thoroughbreds.) Fayette County had 29 reported foal deaths.
Thoroughbred Daily News reported that number is high. In a normal year, foal deaths from nocardioform placentitis may be in the single digits or low teens this time of year. Currently the numbers are on track to those reported in 2011 and 2017, when there was a significant spike in foal deaths from the condition. Officials don't consider it to be an epidemic at this time, but farm employees should remain vigilant in looking for the infection.
Nocardioform placentitis is caused by bacteria that form mucus that make the placenta separate from the mare's uterus, stopping the ability for the foal to get oxygen and nutrients. This condition can be life-threatening: foals can be born weak or still born, but some foals are born alive and well.
Scientists don't know how the bacteria get past the mare's vulva to her reproductive tract but the prevailing theory is that nocardioform placentitis is in the soil and that more cases occur when there is unseasonably warm weather before foaling season.
The first sign of nocardioform placentitis is premature lactation and vaginal discharge. The uterus can be ultrasounded to look for nocardioform placentitis lesions, though some of the lesions cannot be seen on ultrasound. Once a foal has been born, examining the placenta can show if lesions are present. If multiple placentas show lesions, it may be worthwhile to ultrasound other mares on the property to see if others are affected, Dr. Karen Wolfsdorf, a reproduction specialist with Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, told the TDN.
Read more at the TDN.
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