Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Eating Manure (in Adult)

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  • To discuss your equine's general health and management.

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    Although less common than in foals, manure eating (coprophagy) in adult horses is still common. It is thought to occur due to boredom or frustration, lack of adequate forage or fiber, or other dietary imbalances or deficiencies.

    Horses that are very hungry will eat their own manure and that of herd-mates. There is actually significant nutritional value in manure that can help nourish an otherwise starving horse.

    The behavior usually occurs in bored adult horses on dry lots. Theoretically, horses engaged in this behavior ingest more parasites, which can lead to other problems. However, mild coprophagy alone, with no other signs of illness or disease, probably does not cause significant problems.

    WHAT TO DO

    Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) and assess their management. Make changes to management in an attempt to reduce this behavior. Feed longer stem hay and more of it, and ensure that horses have access to white and mineralized salt blocks.

    Provide an environment that engages, in the form of increased exercise, turnout or stimulation from other horses. Horses do better psychologically and physically when they are kept with or at least in view of others.

    WHAT YOUR VET DOES

    You may contact your vet, who may want to evaluate your horses and management and may recommend changes in management to lessen this behavior.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

    RELATED REFERENCES

    McGreevy P. Equine Behavior, A Guide for Veterinarians & Equine Scientists. Edinburgh: Saunders, 2004.

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