Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Foal or Newborn, Abdominal Radiography, X-ray



This diagnostic may be advised when a foal is exhibiting signs of abdominal pain (colic), which can be associated with a variety of underlying conditions. The small size of foals relative to adult horses makes them much easier to x-ray.

X-rays are streams of electrons that pass through the tissues of the body and are blocked by tissues of various densities. The resultant pattern that emerges on the other side of the body causes a screen to emit light, which exposes film or a digital image capture surface.

High quality radiographs taken of a foal’s abdomen may provide an examiner with a wealth of diagnostic information about the organs and patterns of gas distention and fluid accumulation within the different parts of the intestinal tract. Usually, only a single image is needed, however additional views may be helpful.


This diagnostic provides valuable (if not definitive) information to your vet, the results of which cannot be obtained in any other way. The results should be evaluated in conjunction with other diagnostics, a complete history, and physical exam.


Sedation may be necessary to keep a young and distressed foal immobilized adequately to take high quality images. In many cases, the foal is laid on its side on the x-ray plate. It is uncommon to make a definitive diagnosis of an abdominal problem in a foal with this diagnostic alone.


  • Will the foal need to be sedated?
  • Will this diagnostic change the approaches to treatment?
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