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


Newborn Foal, Strains or Pushes to Urinate


In the newborn foal, straining to urinate or posturing without producing urine is potentially very serious. The most common cause of this is bladder rupture, a life-threatening problem.

Foals with fecal (meconium) impactions sometimes posture this way, but also strain to defecate. Older foals rarely exhibit this sign, but when they do it may also be indicative of a serious problem.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If the foal's appetite or attitude do not seem normal.
    • If straining is intense and there is no urine.
    • 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.
    • If this seems mild and the foal seems vigorous otherwise.

your role


What To Do

Assess the foal, paying particular attention to heart rate, general attitude, nursing behavior, urine and manure production. Evaluate the umbilicus. Do you notice any urine dripping from it? Share your findings and concerns with your vet, who may advise you to give the foal an enema.

your vet's role

By watching the behavior, your vet can probably differentiate difficulty urinating from difficulty defecating. Bladder rupture in newborns is surprisingly common and requires laboratory work and other diagnostics to prove.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When was the foal born?
  • Does the foal appear bright, alert and responsive?
  • How frequently is the foal nursing?
  • Did a vet assess the mare, foal and placenta soon after foaling?
  • Does the foal appear to be urinating normally?
  • Has your foal ingested life-saving colostrum yet?
  • Is the foal straining to defecate now or was it earlier?

Diagnostics Your Vet May Perform

Figuring out the cause of the problem. These are tests or procedures used by your vet to determine what’s wrong.

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnostics

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
more treatments

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP