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by Claire Breitschopf

Common Foaling Problems: Patent Urachus

Common Foaling Problems: Patent Urachus

Have you ever seen a foal dripping what seems like urine from their umbilicus (belly button)? When a foal has a urachus (a tubular structure) that is not completely closed, urine will leak from the bladder and out of the umbilicus. 

This article will help you further understand this phenomenon, known as foal patent urachus.  

What is the urachus?

While the fetus is in the uterus, urinary waste is excreted through the urachus, a tubular piece of the fetal bladder that runs from the umbilicus to the placenta, a fluid-filled membrane surrounding the unborn foal. The purpose of the urachus is to get the waste to a place where it can be expelled by the mare.

Patent Urachus

When the foal is born, the umbilical cord breaks, causing the arteries and veins to clot and close. The urachus should also close at birth. The umbilical remnants that are seen on the newborn foal should dry up within the first few hours of birth.

A patent urachus is an open urachus, which means that urine will leak from the umbilicus (or navel). This creates the optimal environment for bacteria to enter the umbilicus and travel through the foal’s blood. Young foals are especially vulnerable to bacterial infection due to their immature immune systems, so patent urachus can quickly become an issue.

Signs of Patent Urachus in foals

Of course, it is critical to closely monitor the entire foaling process to watch for any problems arising with foals.

When it comes to patent urachus, here a few things to keep in mind:

  • It may appear like the urachus has closed but the foal could begin leaking fluid hours to days later, so pay close attention, especially during the first week of life. 
  • Foals that lay down more often from being sick at birth or for other reasons are more likely to develop patent urachus with subsequent infection.
  • Foals that are straining to urinate may also develop a patent urachus.

While an abnormal urachus cannot be prevented, there are steps you can take after birth to prevent a patent urachus problem with foals:

  1. Dip the foal’s navel in chlorhexidine or diluted iodine solution at the time of birth. This will help the navel to dry up and prevent infection.
  2. Make sure the foal has adequate colostrum to fight off any bacteria that may colonize near the foal’s navel and become systemic. Colostrum is the foal's first line of defense before its immune system develops.
  3. Keep an eye on the foal’s umbilical stump (or navel). If after a few hours the foal is urinating fluid from their navel, call a veterinarian immediately.

Treatment includes foal probiotics 

Depending on the foal, either chemical or surgical closure of the urachus and the bladder may be needed. In other cases, the infected navel can heal on its own after debridement of damaged tissue. 

The other main treatment for patent urachus includes the administration of antibiotics to reduce infection. You have likely heard of the potential risks of antibiotics being rough on the newborn foal's digestive tract. 

That is why FullBucket developed a veterinarian-formulated foal probiotic paste: To help the foal in its first weeks of life by aiding in protection against common foal diseases, creating a healthy gut flora, and providing protection of the intestinal lining, even when antibiotics are necessary.

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