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


Newborn Foal, Born Solid White in Color


Lethal White Syndrome (LWS), is a condition in which white foals are born with a fatal intestinal malformation. The gene for this condition is most common in American Paint Horses but can be found in other breeds too. The genetic basis for LWS is now clear and identifiable with genetic testing.

Historically, there was confusion over this syndrome, and normal healthy all white foals were euthanized because they were thought to have LWS. This is not the case.

  • 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 as bright as normal or not nursing normally.
    • If the foal is showing signs of colic pain along with this sign.
    • If the foal is straining to pass it's first manure (meconium).
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the foal appears otherwise normal, i.e. is active and nursing normally.

your role


What To Do

If a foal appears otherwise normal but is solid white in color, do not euthanize it. Contact your vet instead. The foal could be normal and healthy. Even if your foal is experiencing abdominal pain (colic) within the first 12 hours of life, the underlying condition may be treatable.

your vet's role

Your vet will assess the foal and perform diagnostics to determine whether the foal has LWS, and treat other unrelated illness, if needed.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What breed is the horse?
  • Is the horse an American Paint or a Pinto?
  • Is the foal showing any signs of abdominal pain (colic)?
  • Will a veterinarian perform a post-partum exam on mare, foal, placenta?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP