Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Newborn Foal, Seems Small or Underdeveloped

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

  • If the foal fails to stand in 2 hours and nurse in 3 hours, along with this sign.
  • If the foal is not nursing or seems depressed, in addition to this sign.

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If the foal appears otherwise normal, i.e. is active and nursing normally.

A premature foal is one that is born before 320 days gestation. The classic premature foal is not only small, but also underdeveloped, and is at increased risk for a variety of conditions.

The term “dysmature” refers to a foal that was born at full-term, but shows signs of prematurity such as floppy ears, silky coat, small size, and crooked limbs. Internally, their lungs, kidneys and immune system may not be functioning normally. These problems are grouped into a condition known as “Dysmaturity Syndrome”.

Early veterinary intervention provides the best prognosis for premature and dysmature foals. Even foals that are nursing well and are active are at risk for certain conditions. Joint collapse, for example, needs to be diagnosed early and managed appropriately.

WHAT TO DO

Keep mare and foal confined and calm in a large stall bedded with straw, until your vet can assess the situation.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet performs a post-foaling exam on mare, foal and placenta. The foal’s health is paramount, but an underdeveloped foal may call into question the mare’s reproductive health.

The foal is examined, and in most cases, an antibody test is run. If the foal appears abnormal, special management and further testing may be needed.

Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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