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


Foal or Newborn, Grinding Teeth or Curling Lip


Curling of the lip (flehmen), is a common behavior in healthy foals. Tooth grinding can be a sign of aggression (or a defensive behavior) in foals that are unaccustomed to people and handling. However, either behavior also may be a sign of abdominal pain (colic).

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you are convinced this is a sign of colic (abdominal pain).
    • If you notice other signs of abdominal pain (colic).
    • 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 this seems mild or occasional and the horse seems normal otherwise.
    • If the foal appears otherwise normal, i.e. is active and nursing normally.
  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • If you notice this sign only when the foal is being handled. The foal seems well otherwise.

your role


What To Do

If in doubt about the nature of this behavior in your foal, assess their general health paying particular attention to their attitude, vital signs and nursing behavior.

Taken alone, with no other signs of illness or abnormalities, this behavior may not be cause for worry. However, if this behavior persists or is accompanied by any other abnormalities, contact your vet with your findings and concerns.

your vet's role

Your vet's primary concern is to be sure that these behaviors are not being caused by abdominal pain (colic). Depending on their findings, they may recommend additional diagnostics to determine the cause of this behavior.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When did you first notice these signs?
  • Are you seeing other signs of abdominal pain (colic)?
  • Is the foal active and nursing?
  • Do you notice any other signs of a problem?
  • How frequent are you noticing the behavior?
  • Is the behavior associated with handling?

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