Routine & Emergency Foal Care


Once the water breaks or you see membranes, the foal should be delivered in 20-30 minutes. If the foal is not delivered within 30 minutes or the mare is not making progress over 10-15 minutes, call your veterinarian or contact the UF Large Animal Hospital at (352) 392-2229. Please call as the first few hours and days of a foal’s life are the most critical.

Post-Foaling Checklist 

  • If the foal is born and not moving, call your veterinarian immediately
  • The foal should be sternal within 1-5 minutes
  • The foal should be standing within 1-2 hours
  • The foal should be nursing within 2-3 hours
    • The colostrum or “first milk” is critical for the foal to receive to provide antibodies
    • Foals need about 2 liters in the first 24 hours which also helps with gut closure
    • If the foal does not get enough colostrum, it can become “septic” when bacteria enters the bloodstream
  • The foal should pass meconium at 4-6 hours
    • An enema may be given in the first few hours of life to assist with meconium passage
    • Do not give repetitive enemas
  • The foal should urinate within 9-10 hours
  • Check the foal’s IgG level in the first 8-24 hours after birth
  • Umbilical care
    • Dip naval 2-3 times during the first day of life
    • Dip naval in Betadine solution (light “tea” color, 2%) or Nolvasan solution (use 0.5% solution or 1 part Nolvasan to 3 parts water)
    • Check umbilical stalk for discharge daily
    • Watch for excessive bleeding, infection, or patent urachus (bladder defect)

Post-Partum Mare Checklist

  • Make sure the placenta has passed within 3 hours of birthing
    • Save all parts of the placenta to look for abnormalities and remember to keep it away from animals
  • Check the udder for milk
  • Check the vulva for trauma
    • Look for bruising, tears and discharge
  • Monitor appetite, temperature and manure output

The 1-2-3 Rule

  • One hour to stand
    • The foal should be sternal within 1-5 minutes
  • Two hours to nurse
  • Three hours to pass the placenta
    • If the mare does not pass the placenta within 3 hours, this is a medical emergency!

Newborn Foal Normals

  • Temperature 99-102F
  • Heart rate 80-120
  • Respiratory rate 20-40
  • Pink gums
  • Nursing 4-6 times per hour
  • Fecal output 2-5 piles per day, pasty

Correct Foal Restraint

  • Do not pick the foal up by the belly – this can rupture the bladder

Foal Nutrition

  • Foals should consume 21-25% of their body weight in milk daily (2.5 gallons per day for a 100 lb foal)
  • Feeding foals
    • Ideally foals should nurse from the mare
    • In foals that cannot nurse the mare or are orphans:
      • Bucket feeding reduces the chance of aspiration from a bottle
      • Do not overheat milk
      • Do not force feed a foal
      • A feeding tube may be placed by your veterinarians for specific diseases

Clinical Signs that Require Emergency Veterinary Care

  • Meconium impactions
  • Weak, cold
  • IgG is low
  • Fever
  • Any discharge from the nose
  • Diarrhea
  • Colic
  • Strange behavior
  • Not nursing
  • Yellow, blue or gray gums
  • Sunken eyes or entropion
  • Contracted tendons
  • Relaxed tendons
  • Severe deformities
  • Swollen joints
  • Lame foal

More Foal Veterinary Care Information

House and Foal

Information provided by Dr. Amanda House, Veterinarian of UF Large Animal Internal Medicine, Clinical Assistant Professor at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Equine Extension Specialist, and Course Director of the Practice-Based Equine Clerkship Program.

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