Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Cesarean Section, C-Section



Cesarean section is surgical removal of an unborn foal through an incision in the abdominal wall and the uterus. In most regions, c-section is not regularly performed. However, it is more commonly performed in areas of high foaling concentration, very valuable breeding stock, and readily available referral hospitals that routinely offer this surgery.

Just like colic surgery, c-section requires general anesthesia of a very large animal that is likely sick from complications of foaling. The mare is anesthetized and placed on her back on a surgery table. In most cases a gas anesthesia machine and ventilator are used.

A large incision is made through the skin and belly wall. The foal is found within the abdomen and the uterus is pulled up to the incision. A large incision is made over the foal through the uterus. The foal is grasped and pulled out, being very careful not to dump fetal fluids back into the abdomen.

A team of trained personnel tend to the foal while the mare’s uterus and abdomen are repaired by the surgical team. The mare is allowed to recover from anesthesia.

Consider Potential Side Effects & Complications

Anesthetic risks are significant in a large animal that may be sick from foaling complications. Also like colic surgery, a very large incision is made on the lowest part of the belly. Incisional complications after c-section are not uncommon.

Consider Reasons Not To Use This Treatment

C-section is not typically used if the foal is dead. If the surgery is performed more than 2 hours after the water has broken, the likelihood of a live foal is extremely small. This is an expensive procedure, and requires good post-operative care.

Is It working? Timeframe for effect

Generally, this surgery takes between 1-2.5 hours, and recovery from anesthesia may take another 1-2 hours.

Questions To Ask My Vet

  • Will the foal be returned to the mare after the procedure?
  • Will the mare still raise the foal?
  • How will my mare's future reproductive soundness be affected by this procedure?
  • What is the likely cost of this procedure?
Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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