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


Newborn Foal, Heart Rate Abnormally Slow, Less Than 40 BPM


Heart rates in newborn foals change over the first 24 hours of life, and can range between 60 to over 100 BPM. Right after birth, a newborn's heart rate should be at least 60 BPM. If a newborn foal's heart rate falls below 50 BPM, this can indicate they are suffering from a life-threatening problem.

A very low heart rate is seen in very weak foals, especially following a difficult birth and a period of poor brain and tissue oxygenation. A foal with a very low heart rate may need intensive care or even CPR.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • Questions coming up around foaling should usually be discussed right away with your vet.

your role


What To Do

Call your vet immediately if you have any doubt about your newborn foal's health. A post-foaling exam is a smart investment. The entire health of foal and mare will be evaluated, catching potential problems early. When you talk to your vet, and depending upon how quickly they can evaluate the foal, ask them whether there is anything you can do until they arrive.

What Not To Do

Do not try to examine or treat your foal unless you are able to do it easily and your vet advises it.
Absolutely do not use flunixin meglumine (Banamine®) without your vet's guidance.

your vet's role

Your vet quickly assesses the foal's health. If the vet has access to an oxygen tank, they may supplement the foal's oxygen. Other medications may be given and procedures performed to "kickstart" the foal's cardio-pulmonary systems.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Have you seen the foal pass the first, dark stool, the meconium?
  • Are you seeing other signs of abdominal pain (colic)?
  • Is the foal straining to defecate now or was it earlier?
  • How old is your foal?
  • When was the foal born?
  • Is the foal active and nursing?
  • Was the foal normal before, i.e. nursing, bright and alert?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Did the foal stand and nurse normally after foaling?
  • Is the foal a male or female?
  • Does the foal appear to be urinating normally?
  • Does your foal have diarrhea?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP