Snuggles, a miniature filly foal, and her mother were pulled from a horse auction in Pennsylvania by Colby’s Crew Rescue, an equine rescue based in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

On March 30, Snuggles and her dam were referred to the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center (EMC) by Dr. Gary Kubala from Littlestown Veterinary Hospital, Littlestown, Pennsylvania, for further evaluation and treatment of Snuggles’ left hind lameness. 

When mom and baby arrived at the Center, Sarah Dukti, clinical assistant professor of equine emergency and critical care, noted that the filly was bright, alert, and responsive. 

Snuggles arrived standing in the trailer and walked without assistance into the hospital but was grade 4/5 lame on her left hindlimb and toe-touching intermittently at the walk. She weighed in at 19 kilograms or just under 42 pounds, an appropriate weight for her very diminutive size. 

Snuggles heart rate and temperature were found to be within a normal range but her respiratory rate was mildly elevated. Her joints palpated within normal limits except for her left hindlimb fetlock, which was moderately swollen, warm, and reactive to palpation. 

Ultrasound of Snuggles’ lungs confirmed that she had mild pneumonia, a lung infection in foals that can turn into a rapidly progressive disease if not treated quickly and appropriately. 

Radiographs of both hind fetlocks were taken for comparison. No signs of fracture were seen, but changes were noted in the distal caudomedial aspect of the physis (growth plate) of the left hind metatarsus (fetlock joint). 

Under general anesthesia, a joint tap to collect a sample of synovial fluid found in the joint was taken for laboratory testing, and regional limb perfusion which delivers a high concentration of antimicrobials into the affected area was completed to evaluate and treat the infection in Snuggles’ growth plate. 

Foal in barn.
Snuggles, a miniature filly foal, during treatment at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center. Photo by Sharon Peart for Virginia Tech.

After anesthesia, once standing, Snuggles nursed well and seemed comfortable. Synovial fluid and blood were submitted to the EMC in-house laboratory for testing. Blood work revealed a mildly elevated white blood cell count indicating that Snuggles’ was fighting an infection, but luckily there was no evidence of infection in the fetlock joint.

After her initial evaluation, Snuggles and her dam were placed under the care of the EMC medicine team led by Elizabeth MacDonald, clinical instructor of equine medicine, and Emily Schaefer, clinical assistant professor of equine medicine. 

Due to the severity of Snuggle’s clinical signs and diagnostic findings, limb perfusion for three consecutive days was recommended with systemic antibiotics, NSAIDs (anti-inflammatories), and supportive care. Snuggles’ lameness improved significantly each day, and she gradually became more and more playful and inquisitive about all and any activities near her stall. She especially enjoyed keeping a close eye on mares and foals entering and leaving the ICU!  

Careful monitoring continued and a repeat chest ultrasound confirmed that her pneumonia was improving. Due to significant improvements in her lungs and lameness, Snuggles was switched to oral antibiotics. 

After exactly one week in the hospital, Snuggles was ready to go home! 

MacDonald provided clear instructions for Snuggles’ continued care at home and suggested that Dr. Kubala take repeat radiographs after 14 days.

Typically, a client of the equine hospital at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine main campus in Blacksburg Virginia, Alison Smith of Colby’s Crew Rescue said “Thank you to the entire team for helping Snuggles and her mom! We appreciate it so much!”

EMC Clinicians and support staff hope that Snuggles and her as-yet-unnamed mom find a forever home soon and wish them a bright future!

Written by Sharon Peart for the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.