Ark Country Store

Beware of GI Disease In Foals

NewFoals2The first few weeks of a foal’s life can be the highest risk period in the life of a horse.  There are several gastrointestinal disorders that can quickly drain the health of your foal and cause failure to thrive.  Here’s a look at some of the more common GI issues to be aware of in foals.

Clostridial Enterocolitis

This is a bacterial infection that can affect foals from several days to three months of age. It is caused by a type of bacteria that produces toxins that damage the intestine.


  • Rapid onset with decreased nursing and depression.
  • Colic, diarrhea and possibly abdominal distension.


  • Your vet will look for clostridial bacteria and do further testing to confirm.


  • Many foals require hospitalization with intravenous fluids and antibiotics. In some cases medication and monitoring at home is possible.


  • With early treatment to avoid dehydration and toxemia most foals should recover.



The primary cause of viral diarrhea in foals is rotavirus. It is extremely contagious. It is caused by a viral organism shed in the feces, which can persist in the environment for up to nine months.


  • Malodorous diarrhea, which is profuse and often projectile in nature
  • Depression, lack of appetite, dehydration and fever


Your vet will identify the virus by testing fecal samples


Supportive with intravenous fluids to prevent or treat dehydration.


Most foals will recover with early treatment  if not in a prolonged state of electrolyte imbalance or dehydration.


Disinfect stalls before foaling and quarantine new arrivals before introduction into the herd. Vaccinate broodmare during the eighth, ninth and tenth months of gestation.

The key to avoiding life threatening GI issues is early intervention. When a foal displays a lack of appetite, diarrhea, depression or lethargy you should seek prompt veterinary consultation. Because of the vulnerable stage of life in early foals waiting until tomorrow could be serious, even fatal.

Source: Lone Star Horse Report