Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Newborn Foal, Straining to Pass Manure

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

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

  • If the foal is not as bright as normal or not nursing normally.
  • If the foal does not respond to a single enema within 30-60 minutes

Newborn foals should pass their first manure (meconium) within a few hours of birth. This manure is usually dark and can be fairly hard. After the meconium is passed, the foal may then pass a yellow colored “milk stool.”

A foal that is straining to defecate usually has a meconium impaction, although other diagnoses are possible.

A newborn’s failure to pass the meconium is common within the first 24 hours of age. It is more common in male foals. Foals with meconium impactions raise their tails and strain to pass manure. They may dribble urine as well. If the impaction is serious, it may completely obstruct the intestine and the foal may begin to show signs of bloating and abdominal pain (colic).

Most mild meconium impactions can be resolved with the administration of a single human phosphate enema. However, some foals that strain to defecate have more serious problems that require prompt veterinary treatment.


If you treat your straining foal with an enema, monitor them carefully. In most cases firm dark meconium will be passed within minutes of administration. Straining should stop within 30 minutes. If foals continue straining to defecate, the foal should be immediately evaluated by a vet.


I believe that every newborn foal should be examined by a vet as part of a post-partum exam. This is an opportunity for the vet to evaluate every aspect of the newborn foal and mare’s health. In this case, your vet will likely perform a careful physical exam on the foal, use medications to control pain and attempt to resolve the impaction. In some cases, more diagnostics are needed to rule out other conditions.

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

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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