- Overall appreciation of the foal's conformation for symmetry, abnormal swellings, or stance may give clues to the location of a source of pain , cause of lameness or site of pathology, or help to assess the clinical significance, or progress of correction, of developmental orthopedic disease.
- Close observation of individual structures by visual assessment and palpation will add to localizing information prior to manipulative and other diagnostic steps.
- For other age groups see : - Foal evaluation neonate , adult .
- Immature components of the musculoskeletal system and immune system of young animals place the foal at high risk of injury or infectious causes of lameness.
- Early recognition of abnormalities is imperative so that prompt treatment can be initiated and long-term prognosis improved.
- Infectious causes of lameness are common in foals, especially &lt;4 months of age, and can be very serious it is prudent to assume that all causes of lameness in the young foal are infectious in origin until proven otherwise .
- Boisterous activity coupled with hazardous environment increases the risk of traumatic injury to a foal: kicks, collisions and over-exertion injuries are common.
- The growth plates of immature bones, especially the long bones, are weak and vulnerable to injury, eg fractures (Salter-Harris types I-VI).
- Developmental orthopedic disease is common in weanlings and yearlings and includes: flexural deformity , angular limb deformities (varus/valgus) , osteochondrosis (several limbs may be affected concurrently), physeal dysplasia (physitis) , cervical vertebral malformation .
- Diagnosis of forelimb and hindlimb lameness.
- Part of conformation evaluation .
- Part of neurologic examination .
- Preliminary to gait evaluation , manipulative tests , local analgesia and other diagnostic tests.
- Non-invasive opportunity to examine foal at rest.
- Minimal stress to animal.
- Provides general information only.
- Possibly incidental findings of no clinical significance.
- Requires reasonably relaxed animal to permit objective evaluation of response to palpation.
- Wide range of 'normal' conformation and response to manipulation.
- Manipulation of fracture sites may exacerbate soft tissue injury, even convert closed fracture to compound (open).