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


Newborn Foal, Urine Dripping from Umbilicus or Navel


You notice that urine is dripping or dribbling from the umbilical stump when your newborn foal urinates.

This is likely caused by a condition called patent urachus, which is the failure of normal closure of the duct that during gestation, allowed the fetus to urinate into the placenta rather than the bladder. This can be worsened in foals that strain to defecate for extended periods (usually because of impaction of the first manure). In other cases, foals that are handled excessively, or struggle to rise, may be at increased risk for patent urachus.

While in some cases, urine flow will stop on its own, foals with this condition are at risk for umbilical infection, which is a life-threatening disorder. An umbilical infection often leads to infected joints, another life-threatening problem in the young foal.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If the foal is not nursing or seems depressed, in addition to this sign.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the foal appears otherwise normal, i.e. is active and nursing normally.

your role


What To Do

This is a condition that should be managed by your vet. It is best not to handle the stump or treat it in any way, because you may worsen the problem. You can monitor the foal until the vet can assess the problem- look for swelling of the umbilical area. Keep an eye out for swollen joints and lameness.

What Not To Do

Do not attempt to clean or treat the umbilicus, which is a fragile structure and easily damaged.

your vet's role

Your vet assesses the foal's general health, and that of the umbilicus. Umbilical ultrasound is a very helpful diagnostic in this situation, and can allow early detection of infection. Laboratory blood work may also be indicated. Once the problem has been characterized, your vet can discuss treatment with you, if needed.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Was the foal's birth normal?
  • Did the foal stand and nurse normally after foaling?
  • Does your foal seem normal otherwise?
  • Is the foal straining to defecate now or was it earlier?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP