Equine Health Library


Newborn foals are at risk for a variety of conditions associated with abnormal events during late pregnancy, delivery and/or the first few weeks of life. Examples of potentially life-threatening conditions that can arise during the early postpartum period include overwhelming bacterial infection (septicemia), peripartum asphyxia syndrome (dummy foal syndrome, neonatal maladjustment syndrome), prematurity/immaturity and birth trauma (fractured ribs, ruptured bladder).

Older foals aren’t out of the woods. As they explore their environments and encounter other foals and mares, they can be exposed to a variety of viruses, bacteria and parasites that increase the risk for respiratory disease and diarrhea.

You’ll want to have frequent conversations with your veterinarian before breeding and during your foal’s first year. Together, you and your veterinarian can create a healthcare plan customized for your farm.

After your newborn nurses, he acquires early disease protection through his vaccinated dam’s colostrum. But eventually, those maternal antibodies decline, and your foal needs the added protection that develops following proper immunization.

Strategic deworming is an essential ingredient of preventive health care. This is especially true in young foals.

For optimum health, your newborn foal should consume 15 to 25 percent of his body weight in milk every day and gain an average of 1 to 3 pounds per day. Your foal may nurse up to 70 to 80 times per day.

Every foal benefits from a complete physical performed by your veterinarian within 24 hours of delivery.

You may think new foals can run footloose and farrier-free, but they need early evaluation from a veterinarian in order to correct any mild angular deformities.

Oxygen deprivation at birth can lead to varying degrees of damage to the central nervous system and behavioral disturbances in the foal.

GI disturbances should be quickly identified, diagnosed and a have a proper plan of treatment by a veterinarian. These may occur in the first few hours of life through the first few months of age.

Bacterial pneumonia is the most common respiratory infection in foals.

Close observation coupled with regular veterinary exams are needed to make sure your foal is growing appropriately.

Beginning at birth and continuing through weaning, there are several milestones that need to be met for optimum outcomes.