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


Newborn Foal, White of Eye is Red or Bloodshot


Foals are sometimes born with bloodshot eyes. The white of the eye (sclera) is solid red or laced with thickened vessels. Bleeding into the whites of the eyes is thought to occur due to pressure during the birthing process bursting the tiny vessels. This condition should resolve in a few days in otherwise healthy foals.

However, bloodshot eyes in newborn foals is also associated with another underlying potentially life-threatening disorder- septicemia.

  • 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.
  • 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
Very Common
Less Common
more observations

your role


What To Do

Assess the foal's general health, especially attitude and nursing vigor, gum color, and rectal temperature. Look for diarrhea, lameness and gently feel the umbilical area (looking for swelling or moistness). Compare the appearance of the left and right eye. Do they look the same. If only one eye is affected, it is not as likely to be indicative of body-wide illness and is more likely local injury.

Contact your vet immediately and share your findings and concerns.

your vet's role

Your vet will assess the the foal's general health and the appearance of their eyes, in order to determine whether this is the sign of a serious problem or not. Additional diagnostics, such as antibody testing, may be recommended.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When was the foal born?
  • Is the foal active and nursing?
  • Are both eyes affected?
  • Does the foal appear healthy otherwise?
  • Did the foal stand and nurse normally after foaling?
  • Did a vet assess the mare, foal and placenta soon after foaling?
  • Do you think that the foal is nursing?
  • How frequently is the foal nursing?
  • Was an IgG antibody test done on the foal after birth?
  • What are the results of the newborn foal exam?

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