Coprophagia and pica in horses – when your horse eats poop and fencing!

 

Ah – this poop eating behavior, called coprophagia, is one of those things that can make your skin crawl. I get a case of the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it! Current research tells us that there are many possible reasons for this – but no concrete answers about why horses like to eat manure.

 

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  • There is also a condition called pica – which is when horses eat non-food items, such as wood, dirt, twigs, bark, etc. The cause of this is also unknown, but recent studies suggest that an iron or copper deficiency plays a part.

horse standing near a fence that has been cheweed

Pica = eating stuff that’s not food, Coprophagia = eating manure.

 

Reasons why horses eat poop and fences and other non-food items include:

 

  • boredom and stress

 

  • dietary insufficiency

 

  • lack of “chewing time”

 

  • antibiotic use, as these can adjust the natural gut microbes

 

  • lack of exercise

 

  • There seems to be no conclusive evidence as to pinpoint a certain cause for pica and coprophagia in horses.

 

  • Coprophagia is seen as normal in foals starting at about two to three weeks old. Again – who really knows why!!

 

rubbing soap on fencing to discourage chewing

Soapy fences deter wood chewing (pica!) Use a super-strong detergent bar soap and rub it on and delicious areas of your fencing.

 

 

What can you do about pica and coprophagia in horses​​​​?

 

  • First, consult with your veterinarian and/or equine nutritionist to rule out medical issues.

 

  • You can also offer more hay, exercise, and toys.

 

  • Slow feeders are a great way to curb boredom if you suspect your horse needs more stimulation.

 

  • Keep everything picked – all the time. It’s always a good idea to poop-scoop paddocks and grass pastures, too – as the worm and parasite life cycle depends on horses eating poop and the grass around poop.

 

How to deal with the “bad breath” if you have a poop-eater in the family.

 

  • Since we can’t floss our horses, that limits our options. You could use a large syringe (30 cc or larger) to flush out your horse’s mouth with water before tacking up and riding.

 

You can also wage war on your horse’s boredom and destructive tendencies by following some of the tips for stall rest and for battling a destructive horse.

 

  • You should be more worried about pica than coprophagia, since eating wood and foreign objects is much like a puppy eating shoes. Bad for the objects, and may require major medical intervention for the horse.

 

  • In that case, it’s your job to pica-proof your horse’s living quarters. Fences are a very common target, in which case I really like hot wire/electric fencing.

 

 

fence corner chewed by horses

Pica is bad for horses and bad for fencing.

 

What have your experiences been?

 

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04/10/2024 09:08 pm GMT

 

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