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A Horse That Cribs

November 2, 2009

Help is on the way for the owner of a cribbing horse that might also have gastric ulcers.

Question:

I purchased my gelding three years ago in very bad condition. I noticed after we got him home that he cribbed. I contacted my veterinarian, who examined him and decided the horse had been cribbing for a long time and thought he cribbed only after eating grain because he had gastric ulcers. After switching his grain to what the vet had recommended, he still continues to crib only after eating grain (pelleted) or treats. Why is he cribbing, and what can I do about it?

Answer:

It may be that your horse cribs when he is in pain, or when his blood sugar goes up, or it may just be behavioral – it is very hard to say why there seems to be an association between grain and treat feeding and the cribbing. Whether that is a behavior associated with gastric ulcers is unclear but not impossible.

The most important thing I think you can do is determine whether he truly has gastric ulcers or not. If he has them, treat him and see if the behavior goes away. The only way to be sure he has ulcers is to have a veterinarian perform a gastroscopy on him. A vet will need to have a 3-meter scope to do this. Keep his diet as low in carbohydrates as possible and supplement with oil to help keep his weight up. If he does not have ulcers, or if treatment of the ulcers does not have any effect on the cribbing, then management changes aimed at reducing cribbing are in order.

Dr. Doug Thal, Sante Fe, New Mexico, member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners