Patent Urachus

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Also Known As

Urine leakage from umbilicus


The condition known as patent urachus is a congenital condition that occurs when the tube, known as the urachus, leading from the bladder of the unborn foal to the fluid-filled sac surrounding it does not close properly at birth. This causes leakage of urine from the navel of the young foal.

The degree of patency varies from an occasional drip to full streams of urine from the navel when the foal urinates. This causes scalding of the skin around the navel and the inflamed skin becomes a breeding ground for bacteria which cause an infection that may enter the foal's abdomen via the urachus and cause peritonitis or foal septicemia.

Unless the infection that causes the condition is treated, it may spread through the foals's bloodstream, causing fever, respiratory difficulty, lameness, and swollen joints.


  • Leaking or spurting of urine from the navel
  • Inflamed skin around the navel
  • Signs of infection, such as an enlarged navel that is painful
  • Discharge of pus from navel
  • Fever and signs of illness
  • Lameness and swollen joints


The most common cause of patent urachus is an infection which may originate in the part of the urachus that attaches to the body wall or may be deeper in the umbilical arteries or veins. Septicemia, a blood-borne infection, may also be the cause.


Debilitated or ill foals are at risk for developing this condition. Since patent urachus may serve as a source of systemic infection, a veterinarian needs to be called in to diagnose the problem and correct it as soon as possible.

Closely monitoring a foal's navel during the first few weeks of life for signs of moisture, enlargement, or urine leakage is important to assure an early diagnosis.


A veterinarian will do a thorough examination, including an ultrasound of the foal's navel to confirm patency between the bladder and the urachus. Blood tests will help determine the extent of infection, and bacterial cultures of the navel will help the veterinarian decide on appropriate antibiotic therapy for the foal.

In addition to antibiotic therapy, the veterinarian should determine whether chemical cauterizing or surgical means to close the urachus will work best to correct the condition.

Surgery to remove the infected navel structures may be necessary, and closing the opening between the urachus and the bladder will be done under general anesthesia. In some cases, the veterinarian may decide to cauterize the congenital patent urachus. In most cases, the foal will need to be removed to an animal hospital.

Following surgery or cauterization, the foal will need to remain at rest for several days with antibiotic treatments continuing until all danger of infection has passed. Restricted activity for several weeks in a clean stall will help with the healing process. .

Mild complications, such as urine scalding and dermatitis, that result from patent urachus should also be treated under the guidance of the veterinarian.

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EquiMed Staff

EquiMed staff writers team up to provide articles that require periodic updates based on evolving methods of equine healthcare. Compendia articles, core healthcare topics and more are written and updated as a group effort. Our review process includes an important veterinarian review, helping to assure the content is consistent with the latest understanding from a medical professional.