Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Give Phosphate Enema to Foal

Not all newborn foals need an enema. I recommend giving an enema to any foal less than 24 hours old that raises its tail and strains at all, or a foal that repeatedly pushes out small dark pieces of the first manure (meconium). Enemas are more commonly needed for male foals (colts). This probably relates to their smaller pelvic diameter.

Administered correctly, an enema is not stressful for a foal and should be safe. It is possible to rupture or damage a foal’s rectum with an enema, so only perform this skill pursuant to your vet’s recommendation. Be sure that the foal is adequately restrained you have an assistant that can properly restrain the foal and mare, and you are confident performing this skill.

Supplies Needed

Procedure

Slightly warm the enema to the proper temperature (lukewarm) in a bowl of warm water, and remove the rubber cap. Place a small amount of lubricating jelly on the tip of the enema if it is not already adequately lubricated.

The best method for giving an enema to a foal is to have a helper prevent the foal from moving forward by blocking or cradling the chest. The handler should not block but not grab and hold the foal. For a right-handed person, the helper is on the foal's right side.

The person administering the enema approaches the restrained foal from the foal's left and lifts the tail straight up with the left hand, with the thumb upward and without twisting. About 20 lbs of lifting force is usually ample to stop the foal from struggling.

Now gently insert the already lubricated tip of the enema bottle into the rectum and advance in until the tip is in all the way, in most cases about 3 inches. Gently squeeze the enema bottle and hold steady pressure so that it empties in about 1 minute, no faster. When it is empty, slide the tip out and release the foal's tail. Allow the foal to freely move away.

In most cases, the foal will squirt out a volume of hard meconium and some yellowish softer manure behind it. If after 30 minutes, the foal is still straining, talk to your vet about giving the foal a second enema.

Tips for safety & Success

Sodium phosphate (saline) enemas are a human heath care product that work well for foals. They can be purchased at any drug store. in our practice, we use Fleet’s saline enema (4.5 oz.).

Store enemas indoors. They should be lukewarm (body temperature) when administered, not hot. It is best not to administer a cold enema to a foal. Soak the bottle in warm water for a few minutes to warm it up.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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