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Equine Health Resource

Foal or Newborn, Under 1 Week Old has Diarrhea

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

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

    This is a common, life-threatening and urgent observation. The situation must be handled correctly if the foal is to survive. Foal diarrhea at this age usually results from a bacterial or viral intestinal infection that can be fatal.


    Contact your vet immediately. You can provide helpful information by simply noting the foal’s attitude and whether they are nursing. Keep in mind that the condition could be contagious to other foals.

    If this is a breeding farm situation, then it is important to identify the agent and to try to prevent infection in other foals on the farm. In rare cases, agents causing foal diarrhea can be contagious to people.


    Your vet will conduct a post-foaling exam and determine the level of antibodies in the foal’s blood. Diagnosis of a specific bacteria or virus can be tricky, and involves laboratory culture and other tests.

    Treatment depends on these results, but supportive nursing care needs to be provided immediately. Many of these foals need to be transported to a veterinary referral hospital where they can get 24/7 intensive care.

    What Not To Do

    Do not confuse this observation with "foal heat diarrhea," which is common but not necessarily life-threatening, and occurs in 1-2 week old foals.

    Do not try to manage baby foal diarrhea without veterinary assistance.


    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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