Conditions or ailments that are the cause of a problem that you see - your observation.

Your vet may diagnose

Foal or Newborn, Fractured or Broken Ribs


Fractured ribs are the most common fracture in baby foals, and usually occur during a difficult birth (dystocia).

Signs may include swelling over the rib cage, most commonly in the area behind the elbow. The swollen area is usually painful, and crunching or crackling may be felt or heard when the area is palpated. Affected foals may grunt when breathing or moving, and generally appear uncomfortable.

Simple rib fractures heal well with time, stall confinement and no treatment. Severe fractures or multiple fractures of individual ribs may require surgical repair. If multiple ribs are fractured in multiple places, a condition called "Flail Chest" may develop, in which the normally (relatively) rigid chest wall loses its structure and becomes mobile with respiration. This causes respiratory dysfunction. In some cases, fractured ribs can puncture the lungs, heart, or the large vessels in the chest, which can cause fatal hemorrhage.

Diagnosis requires veterinary exam, ultrasound or x-ray (radiography).

Treatment may be conservative (stall confinement) and in more serious cases may involve a variety of surgical procedures. In some cases, other damage may need to be treated simultaneously, examples include pneumothorax or internal bleeding.

my vet's role



Other conditions or ailments that might also need to be ruled out by a vet.

Very Common
Less Common
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The prognosis is good for simple rib fractures. The prognosis is guarded to poor if there are multiple fractures with flail chest and poor if rib fractures have punctured lung, heart, other internal organs or great vessels.

my role


I might observe

You might make these observations when a horse has this condition.

Very Common
Less Common
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Questions To Ask Your Vet:
  • Can you tell how many ribs are fractured and how severely?
  • Do you think that these rib fractures are a danger to the foal and need further treatment?
  • Do you know that there is no collapsed lung (pneumothorax) or other internal injury?

Your vet should manage dystocia promptly, correctly and gently as possible. Avoid excessive traction on a foal's limbs during dystocia. Be on the lookout for this condition.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP