Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Newborn Foal, Not Nursing or Depressed

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

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

    Failure to nurse or a depressed demeanor is an indication that a foal is ill. Diseases that affect newborn foals are almost always life-threatening and can progress very rapidly.

    When a foal does not nurse, the mare’s udder becomes engorged with milk, and ultimately it streams or steadily drips. A sick foal often approaches and nuzzles the udder but does not latch and nurse. The foal’s face may become glazed with dried milk. A young foal that is not regularly nursing can become severely dehydrated in just a few hours.

    Any time a newborn foal stops nursing or seems depressed, something must be done immediately. The younger the foal, the more urgent the situation.


    Quickly assess the foal and call your vet immediately with your findings and concerns.


    There is a fairly short list of the common problems that cause illness in the very young foal. Infection is at the top of the list and so must be ruled out. Using physical examination and blood tests initially, your vet can usually have an idea of what is happening and can institute early treatment to try to head off the illness. If a foal does not respond quickly in the field, regardless of the condition causing the illness, it must be transported to a hospital facility that can provide neonatal intensive care.

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

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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