Mare Health: What to do with a Twin Pregnancy?

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My mare is pregnant with twins, what happens now? This is a question that many horse owners never expect to ask themselves. It was surprising to learn that twin pregnancies in horses are rare, occurring in only 1% of all equine pregnancies. While it may seem exciting to have two foals instead of one, twin pregnancies can be dangerous for both the mare and the foals.

When a mare is pregnant with twins, the pregnancy is considered high-risk. The mare’s uterus is not designed to carry more than one foal to full term, and as a result, complications can arise. The most common complication is that one or both of the foals will not develop properly, which can lead to the death of the foals and even the mare. As a horse owner, it’s important to understand what happens when a mare is pregnant with twins and what steps can be taken to ensure the health and safety of the mare and the foals.

So, what happens now that my mare is pregnant with twins? As a responsible horse owner, you need to work closely with your veterinarian to monitor the pregnancy and take appropriate measures to ensure the health of your mare and her foals. In most cases, one of the embryos will need to be terminated to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy. It’s a difficult decision to make, but ultimately, the safety of the mare and her foals is the top priority.

Understanding Twin Pregnancy in Mares

Causes of Twin Pregnancy

Twin pregnancy in mares is caused by the fertilization of two eggs released by the mare’s ovaries during ovulation. This can happen naturally or as a result of assisted reproductive techniques such as artificial insemination.

Risks Associated with Twin Pregnancy

Twin pregnancy in mares is associated with several risks. One of the main risks is that twin pregnancies have a high chance of ending in abortion, stillbirth, or the birth of weak, underdeveloped foals. This is because the mare’s uterus is not designed to carry two foals at once, and there is limited space and resources for both foals to develop properly.

Other risks associated with twin pregnancy include dystocia (difficult birth), placental problems, and increased risk of infection.

Diagnosing Twin Pregnancy

Twin pregnancy in mares can be diagnosed by ultrasound as early as 14-16 days after ovulation. If twins are detected, it is important to reduce the pregnancy to a singleton as soon as possible to increase the chances of a successful outcome. This can be done by manually crushing one of the embryos or using a technique called transvaginal aspiration.

It is important to monitor twin pregnancies closely throughout gestation to detect any potential problems early on and take appropriate action. The optimal time for reducing a twin is from 14-16 days before implantation occurs at day 17.  Once the embryos are implanted into the uterine wall the risk of losing both pregnancies increases with twin reduction after this time.

Managing Twin Pregnancy in Mares

Options for Managing Twin Pregnancy

When a mare is confirmed to be carrying twins, there are a few options available for managing the pregnancy. One option is to leave both embryos to develop naturally, but this can be risky for both the mare and the foals. Another option is to manually reduce the number of embryos to one, which can improve the chances of a successful pregnancy. This is best done and safest at 14-16 days from ovulation. It is always recommended to have your mare scanned (via rectal ultrasound) 14 days post cover to determine if twins are present.

Ultrasound Monitoring

Regular ultrasound monitoring is essential for managing twin pregnancies in mares. This allows the veterinarian to track the development of each embryo and detect any potential complications early on. Ultrasound can also be used to guide the process of manually reducing the number of embryos. The process is painless to your mare.

Medical Management

In some cases, medication may be used to help manage twin pregnancies in mares. This can include hormonal treatments to help prevent the mare from ovulating again, or drugs to help relax the uterus and prevent premature labor.

Surgical Intervention

If complications arise during a twin pregnancy, surgical intervention may be necessary to save the mare and/or the foals. This can include procedures such as fetotomy (removing a dead or non-viable fetus) or a caesarean section to deliver the foals. Overall, managing a twin pregnancy in a mare requires careful monitoring and the expertise of a veterinarian. By working closely with your veterinarian and following their recommendations, you can help ensure the best possible outcome for your mare and her foals.

Caring for a Mare with Twin Foals

Birth and Delivery

When a mare is pregnant with twins, the delivery process can be more complicated than a typical birth. It is important to have an experienced veterinarian present during the delivery to ensure the safety of the mare and foals. The veterinarian may need to assist with the birth or perform a caesarean section if necessary. After the birth, the mare and foals should be monitored closely for any signs of distress or complications.

Postpartum Care

After the delivery, the mare and foals should be separated from other horses to prevent injury or aggression. The mare may need additional support, such as pain medication or antibiotics, to aid in her recovery. The foals should be examined by a veterinarian to ensure they are healthy and receiving enough milk from the mare. It is important to keep the mare and foals in a clean and safe environment to prevent infection and injury.

Feeding and Nutrition

Feeding a mare with twin foals can be challenging, as she will need to produce enough milk to support both foals. The mare should be fed a high-quality diet that is rich in protein and nutrients. It may be necessary to supplement the mare’s diet with additional feed or hay to ensure she is getting enough nutrition. The foals should be monitored closely to ensure they are gaining weight and receiving enough milk from the mare.

Socialization and Training

Twin foals may have difficulty socializing with other horses, as they have each other for companionship. It is important to introduce the foals to other horses at a young age to prevent them from becoming too dependent on each other. The foals should also receive proper training and handling to ensure they are well-behaved and easy to handle as they grow older. Overall, caring for a mare with twin foals requires extra attention and care. It is important to have an experienced veterinarian present during the delivery and to monitor the mare and foals closely after the birth. With proper care and attention, the mare and foals can thrive and lead healthy lives, however the safest option is to reduce twin pregnancies to a singleton pregnancy early on.

 

Author

  • Dr Louise Cosgrove

    The founder of Exclusively Equine Veterinary Services, Louise is driven to support horses in their recovery from injury or illness. A graduate of the University of Queensland, with international equin...

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