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


Newborn Foal, Not Nursing or Depressed


Failure to nurse or a depressed demeanor is an indication that a foal is ill. Diseases that affect newborn foals are almost always life-threatening and can progress very rapidly.

When a foal does not nurse, the mare's udder becomes engorged with milk, and ultimately it streams or steadily drips. A sick foal often approaches and nuzzles the udder but does not latch and nurse. The foal's face may become glazed with dried milk. A young foal that is not regularly nursing can become severely dehydrated in just a few hours.

Any time a newborn foal stops nursing or seems depressed, something must be done immediately. The younger the foal, the more urgent the situation.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
You also might be observing
Very Common
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your role


What To Do

Quickly assess the foal and call your vet immediately with your findings and concerns.

What Not To Do

Do not take a wait and see approach when you make this observation. Simply call your vet.

your vet's role

There is a fairly short list of the common problems that cause illness in the very young foal. Infection is at the top of the list and so must be ruled out. Using physical examination and blood tests initially, your vet can usually have an idea of what is happening and can institute early treatment to try to head off the illness. If a foal does not respond quickly in the field, regardless of the condition causing the illness, it must be transported to a hospital facility that can provide neonatal intensive care.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When was the foal born?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Did the foal stand and nurse normally after foaling?
  • Do you notice other signs?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

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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)

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further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP