Fractured ribs are the most common fracture in baby foals, and usually occur during a difficult birth (dystocia).
Signs may include swelling over the rib cage, most commonly in the area behind the elbow. The swollen area is usually painful, and crunching or crackling may be felt or heard when the area is palpated. Affected foals may grunt when breathing or moving, and generally appear uncomfortable.
Simple rib fractures heal well with time, stall confinement and no treatment. Severe fractures or multiple fractures of individual ribs may require surgical repair. If multiple ribs are fractured in multiple places, a condition called “Flail Chest” may develop, in which the normally (relatively) rigid chest wall loses its structure and becomes mobile with respiration. This causes respiratory dysfunction. In some cases, fractured ribs can puncture the lungs, heart, or the large vessels in the chest, which can cause fatal hemorrhage.
Diagnosis requires veterinary exam, ultrasound or x-ray (radiography).
Treatment may be conservative (stall confinement) and in more serious cases may involve a variety of surgical procedures. In some cases, other damage may need to be treated simultaneously, examples include pneumothorax or internal bleeding.
Other Diagnoses Considered
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Prognosis & Relevant Factors
The prognosis is good for simple rib fractures. The prognosis is guarded to poor if there are multiple fractures with flail chest and poor if rib fractures have punctured lung, heart, other internal organs or great vessels.
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