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


Newborn Foal, Seems Weak, Gasping for Breath


A normal newborn foal should roll onto its chest and be making active attempts to rise within 5 minutes of birth. A foal that lies out flat, without any such efforts, and that appears to be gasping for breath, will probably not survive without some attempt at resuscitation.

These foals usually have grayish, cold gums and many have an abnormally slow heart rate. Foals that went through a difficult delivery, or were deprived of oxygen by premature placental separation may look like this.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
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your role


What To Do

Call your vet immediately. These foals usually have low blood oxygen levels and time is of the essence. Most will benefit by oxygen supplementation through increasing the oxygen they inspire, or by improving ventilation (the actual movement of air in and out of the lungs).

Gently wipe the fluid out of its mouth and nostrils using a clean towel. Prop the foal onto its chest. You can use a foal resuscitator or even give the foal mouth to nostril resuscitation and possibly save its life. Follow the pertinent instructions and talk to your vet to be sure that you do this correctly.

What Not To Do

Do not swing the foal by its hind legs. This does not help and may injure the foal.

your vet's role

Your vet will assess and help resuscitate the foal. They may be able to provide it oxygen from a tank, and provide other intensive care to resuscitate it. Once the foal's signs improve, an assessment can be made of the underlying disorder and decisions made about how to proceed.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Can I have your location and directions to get to you as soon as possible?
  • When was the foal born?
  • What are the results of the newborn foal exam?
  • Are you comfortable trying to resuscitate the foal until I get to you?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

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

Very Common
Less Common
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further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP