How to Quickly Treat and Prevent Diarrhea in Foals

How to Quickly Treat and Prevent Diarrhea in Foals

February 1, 2023

Foal diarrhea is more than messy and difficult to deal with—it can be downright scary for horse owners. Partly why it's so dangerous is because dehydration happens so quickly. Newborn foals can develop life-threatening dehydration with severe diarrhea (also known as scours) in as few as six to eight hours, leaving you little time to prevent lasting damage or even death. 

So how do you stop diarrhea in its tracks and keep your young horses happy and healthy? In this article, horse breeder Lance Robinson discusses why it's so important to treat foal scours quickly, and  how he does it. Read or watch his story below! But first, let's uncover the causes and complications of diarrhea in foals and effective practices to treat it.


Foal Diarrhea Causes and Complications

Diarrhea in newborn foals is not only dangerous, it's prevalent, occurring in more than half of foals through weaning age. It can also be challenging to diagnose the source.

Scours in foals are often caused by  these issues ( National Library of Medicine):

  • Foal heat diarrhea 
  • Viruses, bacteria, or parasites (up to 50% of cases of diarrheic foals under 30 days old are caused by bacteria)
  • Dietary intolerance (inquisitive foals may eat irritating substances) 
  • Lactose intolerance 
  • Gastric ulcers in foals

These serious complications may accompany foal diarrhea:

  • Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances
  • Malnutrition from inadequate absorption of nutrients
  • Weight loss due to loss of nutrients and fluids
  • Secondary infections from a weakened immune system
  • Death in severe cases

What is Foal Heat Diarrhea?  Is your newborn dealing with a bug that needs immediate attention or a temporary bout of foal heat diarrhea that will resolve? Loose stools afflicting foals 5 to 15 days old usually stem from foal heat diarrhea. It occurs because of changes in milk composition which alter the bacterial flora in the foal's GI tract during the foal dam's first heat cycle. Foal heat scours generally last two to five days before clearing up. Contact your vet if it is severe or prolonged.

Common foal diarrhea causes and complications

Prevention and Treatments for Foal Diarrhea

A telltale sign of foal scours is a wet, manure-soiled tail and backside. Fecal consistency can range from watery to pasty, with different colors, and may contain blood or casts. You should also closely monitor foals less than 30 days old for colic or hypermotility (loud and rumbly intestinal sounds), as these indicate digestive disturbance. The tips below can help you treat diarrhea and have your foal up and bounding about again quickly.

1. Check For  &Treat Infection

Little foals enter a big pathogen-filled world, and owners should be on high alert for signs of infection especially during the first month. An above-normal temperature and increased heart rate or respiration accompanying diarrhea are key indicators. Equine rotavirus and salmonella are two particularly common instigators of diarrhea.

If you suspect your foal has an infection, separate it from other foals to prevent the spread. Also, be cautious about running for the antibiotic on your barn shelf without first getting professional diagnosis and treatment recommendations. Veterinarian Roberta M. Dwyer notes why in this American Association of Equine Practitioners article:

"Owners should not reach for antibiotics when they discover a foal with diarrhea. Indiscriminate use of antibiotics can complicate some diarrhea cases by killing off 'good' bacteria found in the foal’s gut. Antibiotic decisions should be left to the veterinarian."

Foal Health Tip:  Foals aren't born with infection-fighting antibodies. Make sure your foal is nursing well and receiving high-quality colostrum from its dam in the first critical hours after birth! Colostrum contains mom's antibodies that bolster a foal's tiny-but-mighty immune system and ability to fight off harmful germs. 

2. Replenish Fluid &  Equine Electrolytes 

Electrolytes are critical for hydration, and foals lose copious amounts through loose manure. Supportive care for persistent watery diarrhea often includes a vet visit and IV therapy to replenish fluids and electrolytes like potassium, sodium, and chloride. Foals can dehydrate rapidly, so watch for and contact your vet immediately if you notice these signs: 

  • Sunken eyes
  • Prolonged skin tent
  • Dry or whitish-gray gums

3. Improve Foal Environment/Prevent Reinfection

Some sources of diarrhea are highly contagious, and harmful pathogens can be passed easily between animals. That means even while you're treating a foal, it can potentially be re-infected or infect others if they are in an unclean environment. Following these cleanliness steps will improve the biosecurity of your barn:

  • Separate infected animals as much as possible.
  • Replace bedding often.
  • Clean and disinfect stalls.

4. Consider an Intestinal Protectant

Your vet may also recommend an intestinal protectant to coat and soothe a foal's irritated GI tract. Medications or supplements for gastric ulcers are also sometimes prescribed, as ulcers are surprisingly common in compromised newborns. They occur in 25% to 57% of foals and result from high gastric acidity, which may lead to diarrhea.

5. Try Natural Bentonite for Horses

Kentucky Equine Research notes foals with diarrhea respond well to oral bentonite treatment, which has been successfully used for years. Bentonite is a natural clay that buffers acid, binds toxins, soothes the intestinal wall, and replaces minerals and some electrolytes. Bentonite has also been shown to improve gut health in horses and the proliferation of good bacteria. Watch or read Lance Robinson's story below about using Daily Gold Stress Relief Syringe, a natural bentonite paste, to treat foal scours.

 Daily Gold provides natural relief from foal heat diarrhea treatment

How  Horse Breeder Lance Robinson Treats Newborn Foals With Diarrhea

As a Quarter Horse and Pink Buckle horse breeder, I foal dozens of mares yearly and always try to breed at the top of the market. We’re serious about our business, and most of our mares are champions or produce champion racehorses and rodeo horses worth at least $100,000.

That’s why during foaling season, we live with our newborn foals. We check on them every few hours, get up in the middle of the night and walk through the barn to make sure they’re comfortable. We keep a clean, sanitary foaling barn and try to do everything the best for our horses—but we still sometimes have challenges.

One of the most serious we face is foal diarrhea. It can quickly lead to dehydration and death if not reversed. Or if diarrhea drags on for weeks, it may cause colitis and stunt the foal’s immune system enough that it can’t be sold at top market. That’s why we stay on top of diarrhea and treat it at the very first sign.

Recently one morning, we discovered three of our foals had loose stools and wet tails. Instead of using our typical charcoal-based treatment—which can be administered for a long time without much success—we tried something different. Upon recommendation, we gave all three foals the Daily Gold Stress Relief Syringe. To our amazement, their tails were dry by evening chores. That was a real "wow" moment for us! We knew there was something to this product, that we liked it and needed more of it.

Since then, we use Daily Gold Syringe all the time. Now that we’ve found it, it’s a must-have product. I don’t want to foal mares anymore without having a lot of Daily Gold in my barn.

—Lance Robinson

Natural Foal Scours Treatment 

Need a quick solution for what to give a foal with diarrhea? The Daily Gold Stress Relief Syringe delivers rapid yet gentle relief with three natural ingredients: purified water, Redmond bentonite clay, and peppermint oil. Use the syringe as an all-in-one treatment to resolve the symptoms and root causes of diarrhea by:

  • Binding toxins and harmful bacteria and removing them from the body.
  • Buffering acid and soothing gastric irritations or ulcers in foals.
  • Delivering 60+ trace minerals and electrolytes that help rehydrate.
  • Increasing good bacteria population and nutrient absorption.

Do you have a foal on the way? The Stress Relief Syringe is an effective and affordable way to treat scours and help your young foal thrive during the first critical months after birth. Click below to stock your barn and get prepared!


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© Redmond Equine 2023. All rights reserved.

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