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


Newborn Foal, Abdomininal Pushing or Straining


Newborn foals should pass their first manure (meconium) within a few hours of birth. This manure is usually dark and can be fairly hard. After the meconium is passed, the foal may then pass a yellow colored "milk stool."

A foal that is straining to defecate usually has a meconium impaction, although other diagnoses are possible.

A newborn's failure to pass the meconium is common within the first 24 hours of age. It is more common in male foals. Foals with meconium impactions raise their tails and strain to pass manure. They may dribble urine as well. If the impaction is serious, it may completely obstruct the intestine and the foal may begin to show signs of bloating and abdominal pain (colic).

Most mild meconium impactions can be resolved with the administration of a single human phosphate enema. However, some foals that strain to defecate have more serious problems that require prompt veterinary treatment.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If the foal is not as bright as normal or not nursing normally.
    • If the foal does not respond to a single enema within 30-60 minutes

your role


What To Do

If you treat your straining foal with an enema, monitor them carefully. In most cases firm dark meconium will be passed within minutes of administration. Straining should stop within 30 minutes. If foals continue straining to defecate, the foal should be immediately evaluated by a vet.

What Not To Do

Do not administer multiple enemas to straining foals without notifying a veterinarian.

your vet's role

I believe that every newborn foal should be examined by a vet as part of a post-partum exam. This is an opportunity for the vet to evaluate every aspect of the newborn foal and mare's health. In this case, your vet will likely perform a careful physical exam on the foal, use medications to control pain and attempt to resolve the impaction. In some cases, more diagnostics are needed to rule out other conditions.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When was the foal born?
  • Have you seen the foal pass the first, dark stool, the meconium?
  • Is the foal active and nursing?
  • Was the foal examined after birth by a veterinarian?
  • Have you given the foal an enema yet? If so, how many and when?
  • Was an IgG antibody test done on the foal after birth?
  • Does the foal appear to be urinating normally?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP