Examination of Foals After Birth

S.W. Pierce (2003) Foal Care form Birth to 30 days: A Practitioner’s Perspective,
In: 49th Annual Convention of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, 2003,
New Orleans, Louisiana.

Management strategies for the care of the newborn foal from birth is vital to the foal’s future health and well being.

Farm Management Strategies:

  • Stud workers should have knowledge of foal deliveries and be able to recognise post foaling abnormalities
  • Have a fully equipped foaling emergency kit on standby
  • Provide training to Foaling Attendants on how to perform basic CPR on the newborn foal
  • Supply Foaling Attendants with an emergency handout outlining the emergency procedures (see table below), and also place one in the designated foal watch area

Emergency Procedures:
Resuscitation of the Compromised Foal
(A- Airway; B – Breathing; C – Circulation)

1. Clear the airway Remove the membranes and debris from the nostrils
If fluid is present in the nostrils, suction with catheter-tipped syringe
2. Ventilate the Foal Either:
(a) Mouth to Nose
1. Extend the neck
2. Clear the nostrils
3. Occlude (hold off) down nostril
4. Put mouth on up nostril and deliver 20-30 breaths/min (size of breath should cause the foals chest to visibly expand)


(b) Oxygen Mask to nose
1. Extend neck
2. Clear nostrils
3. Apply mask to the nose with oxygen and ambu bag attached
4. One breath every 2 sec with oxygen set initially at 10-15L
5. After 3-5 minutes, reduce oxygen to 5-6L/min

3. Circulation Chest compression at a rate of 100-120 compressions/min (there is a potential for complication if the foal has rib fractures. If the foal is very compromised, the benefits outweigh the risks)


Immediate Post Foaling Examination

Immediate examination of the foal after birth and early detection of abnormal foals is vitally important. Prompt veterinary care is critical to the overall outcome of the compromised foal.

Normal Foal Abnormal Foal
Respiratory movements usually begin 30 seconds after birth; initial respiratory rate 60-70 breaths/min Shallow respiration
Heart rate 60 – 120 beats/min Heart rate< 60 beats/min
Mucous membranes become pink within 1 minute Pale mucous membranes
Capillary refill 2 seconds or less  
Responds to external stimuli  
Suckle reflex begins within 5 minutes of birth  
Stand within 1 hour of birth Not standing within 2 hours
Suck within 2 hours of birth Not sucking within 5 hours