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


Foal or Newborn, Belly seems Bloated


Bloating or abdominal distention appears obvious in foals because of their small size and relatively thin body walls. Bloating can either be a low-grade, chronic appearance or it can be sudden and usually associated with other signs of illness, colic, depression or loss of appetite. Foals with under-nutrition tend to appear pot-bellied and bloated.

Newborn foals with signs of abdominal pain (colic) often show signs of abdominal distention. In this case, the intestine may be physically obstructed or simply not functioning properly. Either way, the intestine fills with gas, fluid or feed material. Foals that have bladder rupture and accumulation of urine in the abdomen also may appear bloated.

Older foals with more chronic conditions can also have a bloated and otherwise poor appearance, without necessarily showing colic signs.

  • 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 is showing signs of colic pain along with this sign.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If the foal appears otherwise normal, i.e. is active and nursing normally.

your role


What To Do

Assess your foal's general health noting whether this sign appeared suddenly or gradually. Consider the presence or absence of colic signs, and consider the foal's attitude and appetite. Promptly contact your vet with your findings and concerns.

your vet's role

Your vet considers the situation and the foal's other physical exam findings to determine a course of action. The nature of the bloat (intestinal versus urine or other) may be determined using physical exam, ultrasound and x-ray.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Is the foal showing any signs of abdominal pain (colic)?
  • When was the foal born?
  • Does the foal appear healthy otherwise?
  • Have you seen the foal pass the first, dark stool, the meconium?
  • Is the foal active and nursing?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

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

Very Common
Less Common
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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)

Very Common
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further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP