Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Pregnant or Lactating Mare's Udder Seems Small

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

  • For a routine post-partum examination of foal, mare and placentae.
  • Questions coming up around foaling should usually be discussed right away with your vet.
  • If you feel that the newborn foal is not getting adequate milk.
  • If the young foal appears to be nursing constantly.

Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

  • If you are confident that your foal is healthy and thriving other than this sign.

Udder development should start at about 6 weeks prior to the expected due date. The udder should slowly enlarge up until foaling, with an increase to melon size in the last 1-2 weeks before foaling.

Mares often “come into their milk” within 24 hours of foaling. Generally, foals drink 20% of their body weight in milk per day. Do not rely on the size of the mare’s udder as an indication of her milking ability. Many mares with their first foal will have a relatively small udder but may produce adequate milk.

WHAT TO DO

You can strip some milk into your hand, but keep in mind that in a relatively short period of nursing a foal can empty one side of the udder, giving you the impression that there is little milk.

Unless there is obviously no milk, let the foal be your guide. If a foal appears dehydrated or is working on the mare’s udder constantly, there may be a problem.

If you have any concerns or questions, call your vet to discuss them. A critical question is whether or not the foal received adequate colostrum (first milk) from the mare. An antibody test performed by your vet on the foal’s blood can answer that important question.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

One way your vet can assess how much milk the mare is producing is by carefully evaluating and monitoring the foal. If the foal seems to be suckling constantly, yet not gaining weight normally, or appears dehydrated, it might be an indicator the mare is not producing enough milk. If your vet determines that this is a problem, there are hormone treatments that can make a significant difference. In other cases, supplementation may be needed.

Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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