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UC Davis Helps Horse Owner with Difficult Foaling Process

June 3, 2016

UC Davis equine specialists performed a cesarean section on Ceilki to avoid complications while foaling Helios.

UC Davis equine specialists performed a cesarean section on Ceilki to avoid complications while foaling Helios.

Case of the Month – June 2016

Ceilki, an 8-year-old grey Arabian mare, had been pregnant three times before coming to the UC Davis veterinary hospital last year. In 2012, Ceilki (pronounced “silky”) miscarried early in her second pregnancy. In 2014, she had a dystocia in her third pregnancy and delivered a dead foal after a difficult delivery. After the dystocia, a mass was found on the floor of Ceilki’s pelvic canal, which was believed to cause the dystocia.

The mass was suspected to be a melanoma, a common tumor in grey horses such as Ceilki, and was in an inoperable position, but Ceilki’s ability to carry a healthy fetus was not compromised. After consulting with her veterinarian—who recommended Ceilki be foaled out at a hospital during her next pregnancy—owner and Arabian breeder Sara Bagg decided to breed her mare again, and have Ceilki give birth under the watchful eye of UC Davis’ Large Animal Clinic.

In January 2015, Ceilki was approximately 315 days into her pregnancy and was brought to UC Davis. The mare was placed on foal watch, and the 24/7 team of veterinarians, technicians and students were ready to assist with her impending foaling. The team’s intent was to see if she could give birth naturally, but be ready to perform a cesarean section, if necessary, to save the foal if there were any problems during delivery.

Overnight going into her 12th day of hospitalization, Ceilki was noted to be sweating, agitated, pawing and restless. The next morning, she was examined – an ultrasound was performed to evaluate the mare and fetus, and tests were performed to determine if Ceilki was close to foaling. Equine specialists in surgery, internal medicine, anesthesia, and reproduction met to finalize a plan with Bagg. Later that day, Ceilki began foaling, but the foal was being delivered backwards and the umbilical cord was compromised. The mare was immediately taken to surgery where the foal—a colt named Helios—was delivered by cesarean section.
The anesthesia and surgery were free of complications. Following the delivery, Ceilki and Helios were brought to the hospital’s Lucy Whittier Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. They were hospitalized for 18 days post-birth, until both mare and foal were able to be discharged.

What's New Image

Helios is now a yearling and is enjoying his new sporting life in halter.

The total rehabilitation period following a cesarean section is approximately three months, so Ceilki was sent home with a recovery plan. Her first month post-surgery was to be spent on stall rest while the abdominal incision healed, and was allowed brief, twice daily hand walks. This continued into the second month with the addition of access to a small turn-out area adjacent to her stall. Finally, in her third month of recovery, Ceilki was allowed access to a pasture. Now, more than a year post-surgery, she is back to normal, and Bagg is considering bringing her to UC Davis next year to breed her again, this time utilizing the school’s embryo transfer process and avoiding future risk of dystocia from the persistent mass in her pelvic canal.

As for Helios, he’s now a yearling that is enjoying his new sporting life, competing in the junior colt division of halter. 

“He’s very athletic and just as happy as could be,” said Bagg, who has been breeding Arabians for more than 30 years, and has owned horses since she was 11 years old. “I just absolutely love them. When I was a kid, I used to go to summer camp just so I could ride horses.”

“I cannot tell you how great everyone at UC Davis was throughout this whole process,” Bagg continued. “We’re so thankful Ceilki was able to have a successful pregnancy, and are thrilled to welcome Helios into the family.”

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About the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
The William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis—a unit of the #1 world ranked School of Veterinary Medicine—provides state-of-the-art clinical care while serving as the primary clinical teaching experience for DVM students and post graduate veterinarian residents. The VMTH treats more than 51,000 animals a year, ranging from cats and dogs to horses, cows and exotic species. To learn more about the VMTH, please go to Timely news updates can be received on its Facebook ( and Twitter ( pages.

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