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Summary

This paper describes criteria used to assess maturity of the newborn foal and their clinical application to field cases of prematurity and dysmaturity. Premature and mature foals may be clearly distinguished by their behavioural and physical characteristics. Measurement of haematological parameters (mean cell volume, total white cell and differential counts), pancreatic β cell activity (plasma glucose and insulin levels), adrenocortical-medullary function (plasma cortisol, adrenocorticotrophic hormone and catecholamines) and the renin-angiotensin system (plasma renin substrate concentrations) were found useful in evaluating the status of the newborn foal. Confirmation of the initial diagnosis can be made by response to various challenge tests eg, glucose tolerance test, short acting synthetic adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH1–24) and frusemide. In the present investigation a small number of individuals appeared to be intermediate in maturity to the other two groups, indicating that a third state of maturity may be identified. The clinical implications of this work suggest that cortisol replacement therapy and administration of long acting synthetic ACTH1–24 may be of benefit.