Providing nutrients to critically ill foals that are weak or unable to nurse is often a challenge for veterinarians. Adding lipids (fats) as a source of energy intravenously could be an option as a recent study found that this didn’t increase the risk of complications or decrease survival rates of the foals.
“Providing adequate nutrition is a very important aspect of neonatal
intensive care because neonates have small nutritional reserves, and they will
very quickly develop a catabolic (breaking down the body’s energy stores)
state,” said Julia Krause, DVM, a researcher in the study. “In cases of
malnutrition, there is a lack of energy to meet metabolic demands, and
furthermore, malnutrition has been associated with a negative influence on
Critically ill foals
that are weak or unable to nurse. In these situations, parenteral nutrition (PN)
is provided via an IV catheter. However, there are several complications
associated with PN, the most common of these being hyperglycemia (high blood
sugar). At the same time, researchers said that the PN formulation did not
significantly increase the occurrence of complications or decrease survival
rates of foals.
“This finding is
important because this shows that there are no medical contraindications for
using lipid-containing solutions, which deliver more adequate levels of energy
to the foal,” Krause explained. “The study also shows that severely ill foals
are more prone to PN-associated complications and have a poor outcome, which can
help practitioners in establishing a prognosis for the animal and improve
accurate client information in regard to prognosis.”
Although PN is normally
only used in referral hospitals, Krause said, “The study helps to increase
awareness of the importance of adequate nutrition as an aspect of neonatal
intensive care, and it shows that the more expensive lipid-containing solutions
are beneficial to the foals by supplying more energy without having detrimental
This study appeared in the January 2007 edition of the Equine Veterinary Journal, p.
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