What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Eating Shavings, Straw or other Bedding


Some horses eat their bedding. Ingestion of small amounts of straw or shavings is usually not harmful, but ingestion of larger amounts can cause intestinal obstruction and colic. Most horses that are fed adequately do not ingest significant amounts of shavings.

The exception to this general rule is the ingestion of black walnut tree shavings. Ingestion of even small amounts of black walnut tree shavings can cause laminitis, and must be avoided.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you think your horse has ingested Black Walnut Shavings.
  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • To discuss your equine's general health and management.

your role


What To Do

Prevention is the best course. Do not let horses have access to black walnut trees at pasture and never use black walnut shavings or sawdust for bedding. Know what type of wood your shavings are made from. Always inspect the bedding, and discuss any concerns you have with the dealer or miller where the shavings originate.

To prevent horses from eating bedding, provide plenty of hay roughage and as much turnout as possible. If they continue to eat shavings, they may need to be muzzled when stabled, or a different type of stall bedding may need to be used (paper shavings).

It is not always easy to tell if shavings or sawdust contain black walnut, especially if several types of wood have been mixed. Black walnut shavings are comparatively dark ranging in color from purplish-black to dark brown. However, other wood shavings are also dark, so color alone is not a reliable means of differentiating. Exposure to Black Walnut is mostly a regional concern. The tree is found throughout the eastern U.S. and in parts of Europe.

If your horse is eating a substantial amount of their bedding or if you believe your horse has ingested black walnut tree shavings, contact your vet with your findings and concerns.

What Not To Do

Do not use shavings containing wood from the black walnut tree. Do not allow horses to consume large amounts of bedding.

your vet's role

Your vet may advise you to monitor your horse for any signs of illness or abdominal pain (colic), or they may want to examine your horse.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How much bedding is your horse consuming and of what type?
  • Is the horse eating, drinking and behaving normally otherwise?
  • Has there been a recent change in feeding, level of work or management?
  • What material is used for bedding?
  • Are you sure that the shavings do not contain Black Walnut?

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
more treatments

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP