A 2-day old colt was brought to UEA for surgical repair of a scrotal hernia. The foal did fairly well after birth until the colic episode from a scrotal hernia. Upon presentation, he showed mild signs of Neonatal Maladjustment Syndrome (NMS), or “Dummy Foal Syndrome”. Although general anesthesia is statistically riskier in very young foals than in adult horses, the emergency hernia repair surgery is potentially life-saving. After weighing the risks and benefits, our surgical team decided to proceed with surgery, which went successfully.
However due to the NMS, the foal experienced difficulty recovering from anesthesia. After 3 hours of medically supporting the still depressed foal, we decided to give The Madigan Foal Squeeze a try. The procedure is a technique that has shown beneficial effects as an adjunctive therapy for treatment of Neonatal Maladjustment Syndrome. It has been studied more rigorously in the last several years. The 20-minute procedure entails application of external pressure on the foal’s rib cage through a tight rope. Ongoing research hypothesizes that this pressure contributes to a decrease in the level of a neurosteroid, allopregnanolone, which helps maintain a sleep-state in utero. The procedure requires minimal equipment and personnel and has anecdotally shown success through other practitioners.
Although no immediate changes were seen, overnight the colt’s mentation and activity level showed improvement. By the next morning, the foal was still unable to stand so we decided to try a second round of The Madigan Squeeze for a longer duration. Again no immediate changes were observed, but the colt’s breathing pattern started to improve steadily and the foal was discharged to the care of its primary veterinarian. Approximately 6 hours after the second squeeze, the primary veterinarian reported the colt stood and nursed the mare unassisted. He has since continued to make dramatic improvement with minimal nursing care.
This success story certainly gave us a boost of confidence! Dr. Madigan and his team at the University of California-Davis are continuing to research the beneficial effects of this procedure, which potentially could be a cost-effective adjunctive therapy to treating “dummy foals”.
For more information of The Madigan Foal Squeeze Procedure, please visit: http://ucdavis.edu/ucdavis-today/2015/february/03-foals.html