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


Newborn Foal, Umbilical Cord Bleeding


Some umbilical cord bleeding is acceptable after foaling and, in most cases, it is best not to clamp or treat the umbilicus. The damage caused by traumatizing the foal is rarely worth the gain.

In rare cases, significant bleeding occurs and persists, and this is a veterinary emergency. If a steady stream of blood persists after 3-5 minutes from cord separation or occurs while a foal is straining to defecate, or if you have any doubt, call your vet.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If bleeding continues at a steady rate for 5-10 minutes after the cord breaks.
    • Questions coming up around foaling should usually be discussed right away with your vet.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If you are generally concerned about the appearance of the umbilical cord.
    • If you treated the cord in any way for bleeding.
    • For a routine post-partum examination of foal, mare and placentae.
    • If the foal appears otherwise normal, i.e. is active and nursing normally.

your role


What To Do

If available, you can place a small, clean hemostat or mosquito forceps on the cord (no closer than about 2-3 cm from the skin) to stop the bleeding until your vet arrives. Only clamp the umbilicus off if the umbilical cord is actively bleeding.

For any foal that bleeds excessively (more than a few minutes of rapid dripping or streaming) from the cord, or that requires special treatment of the cord after foaling, be on the lookout for umbilical problems in the following weeks. The cord needs to be monitored closely to ensure it is shrinking normally, that there is no swelling, and that there is no urine dripping from it. Foals with this history are at risk for patent urachus and umbilical infection.

What Not To Do

Do not clamp the umbilicus unless it is bleeding steadily for longer than 3-5 minutes. Do not clamp the umbilicus closer than 2cm (1 inch) from the skin. Clamping closer may increase the likelihood of damage leading to infection later.

your vet's role

Your vet may treat and ligate (tie off the cord) in order to stop bleeding, or may feel that the best course is simply monitoring the area.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How much bleeding is there?
  • When was the foal born?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP