Umbilical, bladder and joint problems in foals

During the foaling season we often are presented with foals with:

  • Bladder problems (puncture and bladder rupture): during birth, the bladder can rupture. It usually happens in colts. As a result, the urine runs into the abdominal cavity and the foal is unable to urinate or can only pee a little bit. The foal will become ill very quickly (drinking less, laboured breathing, etc) and must be operated on immediately. During the operation, the abdominal cavity is thoroughly rinsed and the bladder is closed in several layers. Some foals lose urine through the navel after birth because the navel does not close properly. Bacteria can migrate up the navel and eventually enter the body through the bladder, resulting in septicaemia. To prevent this, the navel must be removed surgically and the bladder plug closed. This disorder is less urgent than a bladder rupture but can eventually have fatal consequences if it is not corrected.

  • Acute serious navel infections can evolve in navelabscesses both externally (subcutaneous) and internally (umbilical vein and umbilical arteries). Surgical removal must be carried out before the infection spreads inwards.
  • Joint infections are common in young foals. In some cases, this is due to a lack of immunity due to late drinking of poor quality colostrum. Sometimes it affects a single joint, but  several joints may become infected (polyarthritis). Immediate arthroscopic lavage of the joint in combination with antibiotics is vital.


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