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


Foal or Newborn, Seizure or Convulsion


A seizure is uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain. In newborn foals, it usually is caused by lack of oxygen or sugar (glucose), brain injury or infection, or congenital brain conditions. In slightly older foals (especially Arabians), the most common cause is congenital epilepsy. There are many other potential causes including traumatic brain injury.

Regardless, this is a veterinary emergency. While seizures look terrible, recognize that they can usually be controlled. The foal is probably not in pain.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

your role


What To Do

Try to keep the foal from injuring itself by removing any obstacles. Deep straw bedding is helpful. You can cradle a newborn, kneeling behind its back if it is down on its side, being careful not to be kicked, until your vet arrives. Only use enough restraint to keep the foal from injuring itself. Ask someone to hold the mare to prevent her from stepping on the foal.

your vet's role

Your vet will likely control the seizure first, using intravenous anti-seizure medication. At that point, they will try to stabilize the foal's health and determine the cause. They will likely run diagnostics and perform symptomatic treatments until a diagnosis is made. Then more directed treatments can be performed and a prognosis may be given.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How old is the foal?
  • How old is the foal?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Did the foal stand and nurse normally after foaling?
  • Was the foal normal before, i.e. nursing, bright and alert?
  • What, specifically is the foal doing now?
  • Did a vet assess the mare, foal and placenta soon after foaling?

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
more diagnoses

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP