February 16, 2013 - Foal Health - Foal Pneumonia

  • February 12, 2013
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Two important bacteria cause lung infections in foals; here’s how the body and your veterinarian battle these sometimes deadly pathogens

by Dr. Stacey Oke

Like soldiers guarding treasure, breeders go to great lengths to ensure their mares deliver healthy foals. So it can be disheartening when these youngsters suddenly develop a fever, runny nose, and cough in their first few months. One of the reasons foals might show these pneumonia-like signs is the way their fledgling immune systems work.

“A foal’s immune system is different than an adult’s, which partly explains why they are more prone to certain serious respiratory tract infections that don’t generally affect adult horses,” said Dr. Noah Cohen, professor of equine medicine at Texas A&M University.

The immune system has two major “branches:” one that fights microorganisms living inside foal’s bodies but outside individual cells, and a second that fights microorganisms living inside specific cells. Ironically, the cells that some bacteria and viruses invade belong to the immune system itself.


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