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


Newborn Foal, Gums (Mucous Membranes) Abnormal Color


There are a few areas on the body that provide important information regarding the state of a horse's circulatory health. These areas include the gums, the pink membrane inside the nostril, the whites of the eyes, and the pink inner vulvar membranes of mares. That said, the simple act of evaluating the color of your horse's gums is actually a very important skill.

This holds true in foals as well. Foals are delicate and any abnormality needs to be taken seriously and acted upon promptly. Normal foal mucous membranes should be moist, bright pink, and with a rapid capillary refill time (less than 2 seconds).

Foals that have obviously yellow mucous membranes may have liver disease or neonatal isoerythrolysis. Foals that have dark red mucous membranes may have sepsis. Foals with cold extremities and clammy, cold and pale mucous membranes are probably in shock. Foals in abdominal pain (colic) tend to have white or pale mucous membranes.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If the foal is not as bright as normal or not nursing normally.
    • Questions coming up around foaling should usually be discussed right away with your vet.
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your role


What To Do

If you are not sure of whether the foal's gum appearance is normal, always compare the appearance to the opposite side of the mouth, and to the gum color of other normal foals. Keep in mind that if you think the foal is ill, you should wear gloves and use care when evaluating to prevent disease transmission.

Assess the overall health of the foal, paying particular attention to attitude and appetite. Promptly share your findings and concerns with your vet.

your vet's role

Using physical exam and other diagnostics, your vet is able to determine a cause for this observation.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Did the foal stand and nurse normally after foaling?
  • How old is the foal?
  • Is the foal active and nursing?
  • Does your foal have diarrhea?
  • Was an IgG antibody test done on the foal after birth?
  • Will a veterinarian perform a post-partum exam on mare, foal, placenta?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP