What Makes a Horse Eat His Own Manure?

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Horse eating from grass field.
Horse eating from grass field. (Image: Design Pics/Design Pics/Getty Images)

The ingestion of feces is called coprophagia, and horses are known to engage in it. This behavior may become a cause of veterinary concern and a health risk to the horse and other nearby horses.

Improving Digestion

Foals often eat their mother's manure as a way to introduce necessary bacteria into their colon for digestive purposes. Similarly, an adult horse may be attempting to improve its colonic immunity or digestive tract.

Age as a Factor

It is considered normal for foals at 2 to 5 months of age to eat their own feces, for the reasons detailed above. However, an adult horse eating its own feces is a cause for concern, particularly because it may indicate an unbalanced diet.

Possible Causes

A lack of roughage or protein in food or any type of unbalanced diet can lead to equine coprophagia. Boredom or lack of exercise may also be a cause for the behavior.

Similar Behaviors

Coprophagia is a behavioral problem that is closely related to pica, a condition in which the animal ingests dirt or gravel, and which also often indicates a dietary imbalance.

Prevention/Solution

A veterinarian should be contacted if an adult horse is seen repeatedly engaging in coprophagia. He or she will carefully analyze the horse's diet and make recommendations for dietary improvement.

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