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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-24-2003, 02:53 PM Thread Starter
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Angry Lethal White Foal Syndrome

Overo Lethal White Syndrome
by Elizabeth M Santschi, DVM



Overo Lethal White Syndrome (OLWS) is a condition that occurs in newborn foals. The condition is genetic, and both parents carry the defective gene. Horses that carry this gene are most commonly overo white patterned horses (frame overos), but there are exceptions. The defective gene has been found in American Paint Horses, American Miniature Horses, Half-Arabians, Thoroughbreds, and cropout Quarter Horses (foals born to registered Quarter Horse parents that have too much white to qualify for registration with the American Quarter Horse Association).
OLWS foals have blue eyes and are completely or almost completely white at birth. These foals initially appear normal except for their unusual coloring. After a varying period of time, troubling signs of colic emerge due to the foal's inability to pass feces. The OLWS foal has an underdeveloped, contracted intestine caused by a failure of the embryonic cells that form nerves in the gastrointestinal system. Oddly enough, these cells also play a role in determining skin color. There is no treatment for OLWS, and surgery to bypass the intestinal damage has never been successful due to the extensive nature of this type of lesion. Veterinarians advise euthanasia for all OLWS foals because death will inevitably occur from colic caused by fatal constipation.

The birth of an OLWS foal is emotionally injurious and often financially devastating for small breeders because it is always fatal. Identifying an individual's propensity for passing on this disease is essential, and research at the University of Minnesota is making prevention a real solution. Horse breeders can now eliminate the possibility of the birth of an OLWS foal by testing their breeding stock. This research found a mutation in OLWS foals using clues from genetic defect studies on lab animals and humans.

Using these clues from other species, researchers at the University of Minnesota investigated the same genes in OLWS foals, and found a mutation. A test for the defective allele (each gene is made of two alleles, one inherited from each parent) was quickly developed. Testing of OLWS foals, their parents, and unrelated horses revealed that all OLWS foals had two copies of the defective gene, their parents had one, and unrelated horses had none. Simply put, if carriers are never again bred to each other, there can never be another OLWS foal born. Horses at greatest risk of carrying the defective allele are overos, particularly of American Paint Horses and American Miniature Horse breeding. A small number of Tobiano and breeding stock horses also carry the defective gene, and a very small number of carrier horses have been detected in other breeds. These other carriers include Pinto horses, which indicates that as other breeds import overo color patterning, they can also import the lethal gene.

We recommend that horse owners concerned about the possibility of the breeding stock carrying the defective gene contact their veterinarian about the possibility and request a professional opinion about how to proceed with further testing.


From the Association of Equine Practitioners


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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-24-2003, 02:59 PM Thread Starter
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For those of you that aren't familiar with Paint coat patterns, overo is a horse with dark markings that usually aren't "broken up", the white doesn't cross the back between the withers and the tail.

Here's my black and white overo mare Maddie. It's not the best picture in the world, but it shows her coat pattern.


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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-24-2003, 03:52 PM Thread Starter
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Here is a picture of Maddie's colt Jester. He is an example of a tobiano coat pattern. (Jester's father was a tobiano)


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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-24-2003, 04:06 PM Thread Starter
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This is the lethal white foal that was from a different overo mare of mine and an overo stallion. I only learned about lethal white foals a few months after my mare had already been bred to the stallion. The odds are about 1 in 4 of having a lethal white when breeding overo to overo. I wasn't on the favored side of those odds.

Her eyes were blue but appear red in this picture because she was unsteady and fell into the wall causing her to have an abrasion on the eye lid and making it swell.


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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-24-2003, 04:12 PM Thread Starter
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After 36 hours, many prayers and tears the filly had to be put to sleep because she was unable to have a bowel movement. In most lethal whites the intestines don't connect to the rectum, therefore creating a pouch and nothing can come out resulting in a painful death if the foal isn't put to sleep first. It's pretty rough when you wait approximately 345 days for a foal and it has to be put to sleep less than 2 days later.


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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-24-2003, 06:53 PM
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How sad I am so sorry that happened I know how hard it is to loose a foal

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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-25-2003, 04:56 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the condolences starleomach. This happened about 5 years ago. It was very disappointing and sad. I wish I had known about it before I had my mare bred. I had been wrongly informed by another person that had been breeding paints for YEARS. She said it only happens when you breed two paints that are mostly white. Since she had been breeding paints for years I figured she knew what she was talking about.......WRONG!! I had read about it in a horse magazine AFTER I had my mare bred. I was scared the rest of the mare's pregnancy and the moment I saw the foal I burst into tears. I even rolled the foal over on it's back praying I would find one patch of color. No such luck.


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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-29-2003, 12:21 AM
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Angry Thank you

Scarlette thanks so much for posting this. I've been around horses all my life and have never heard about this. You've definitely educated my family and some of our friends, two of which have paints.
I'm so sorry you had to go through this.
 
post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-04-2008, 08:48 AM
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LWS

Hi all, I am not sure if I am in the same boat at the moment. I had a pure white (2blue eyes) born Sunday morning in the rain.
She went to the vet Monday because she was like a rag doll.
Our vet said she had a temp of 39.5 and she was dehydrated. We got about 200mls of mums milk down her throat and the vet put 900mls of fluid in her. The thing is she is rolling but has passed some kind of poo. I have never been this happy to see poo. He put his finger in her and after he did this she passed poop, She was laying at my feet but has just got up and wondering around the office. I doubt I'll get any sleep tonight.
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