What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Newborn Foal, Seems Small or Underdeveloped


A premature foal is one that is born before 320 days gestation. The classic premature foal is not only small, but also underdeveloped, and is at increased risk for a variety of conditions.

The term "dysmature" refers to a foal that was born at full-term, but shows signs of prematurity such as floppy ears, silky coat, small size, and crooked limbs. Internally, their lungs, kidneys and immune system may not be functioning normally. These problems are grouped into a condition known as "Dysmaturity Syndrome".

Early veterinary intervention provides the best prognosis for premature and dysmature foals. Even foals that are nursing well and are active are at risk for certain conditions. Joint collapse, for example, needs to be diagnosed early and managed appropriately.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If the foal fails to stand in 2 hours and nurse in 3 hours, along with this sign.
    • If the foal is not nursing or seems depressed, in addition to this sign.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the foal appears otherwise normal, i.e. is active and nursing normally.
You also might be observing
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your role


What To Do

Keep mare and foal confined and calm in a large stall bedded with straw, until your vet can assess the situation.

your vet's role

Your vet performs a post-foaling exam on mare, foal and placenta. The foal's health is paramount, but an underdeveloped foal may call into question the mare's reproductive health.

The foal is examined, and in most cases, an antibody test is run. If the foal appears abnormal, special management and further testing may be needed.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What were the mare's breeding dates?
  • Did the foal stand and nurse normally after foaling?
  • How does the foal's health seem otherwise?
  • What, specifically is the foal doing now?
  • Is the foal active and nursing?
  • Will a veterinarian perform a post-partum exam on mare, foal, placenta?
  • Was an IgG antibody test done on the foal after birth?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

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Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

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further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP