Eating bedding: risky business or harmless habit?

Is it dangerous for a horse in a stall to ingest some bedding while eating hay? If so, is there bedding that is less problematic than others? Sally

Dear Sally,

Certainly if bedding is moldy (or dusty) it should not be available to a horse to either eat or be stalled on. I’m sure you also know that bedding made from the black walnut tree is toxic to horses, causing laminitis just from contact–no ingestion required. Other than that, for horses fed on the floor, taking in a small amount of bedding with hay is inevitable and shouldn’t be an issue. If you’re worried, use a feeder, hay net, or put the hay on a part of the rubber mat that has been swept free of bedding. Just make sure, for safety, that you’re feeder doesn’t have any sharp edges and that the hay net is tied high and securely.

But if your question is more about a horse that was stalled on one type of bedding (say, wood shavings) and is now stalled on a different type of bedding (say, straw) and eating the new bedding because it’s interesting, tasty or relieves boredom, then that could be an issue. Ingesting more than small amounts of almost anything commonly used as bedding could lead to issues like colic, diarrhea, impaction or choke.

If your horse has decided his new bedding is delectable, you have a number of options to keep him out of digestive trouble:

  • Return to his original bedding
  • Introduce the new bedding more slowly, such as underneath his original bedding
  • Keep high-quality hay that he likes in the stall at all times so he’s not tempted by the bedding
  • Add a stall toy or other distraction to keep him occupied
  • Turn him out so he’s spending less time in his stall

Others have also recommended spraying the bedding with something that smells or tastes bad but if this doesn’t stop him from eating, then you may have another problem on your hands. Hopefully your horse is just gathering up a few pieces of bedding here and there while trying to find every last morsel of his hay and it’s not a big deal.

Tagged with:
Posted in Ask the Vet

Recent Posts


One comment on “Eating bedding: risky business or harmless habit?
  1. It is so important to choose the right quality bedding. Mallard Creek has a complete line of virtually dust free bedding for those worried about their horse ingesting the small dust particles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Share it:
SmartPak is the Official Tack and Equipment Supplier of the USEF.
Members save 5% off all purchases.
You'll this

SmartCombo™ Senior Pellets


As Low As: $55.95
(77 reviews)
Have questions? Contact us »
Connect with us:

Meet the SmartPakers

Jen and Tally
Apparently I've been obsessed with horses since I was born, and I used to beg for pony rides on a regular basis. I started showing in 4-H, progressed to equitation and jumpers in high school and rode on the IHSA team in college where I also discovered the joys...

Learn more »

Read our blog

Ask the Vet
Every week our staff veterinarian, Dr. Lydia Gray, answers tough horse health questions from riders just like you.

Read her latest answer now »

Healthy horses, happy riders.
SmartPak is committed to a greener planet.
Sign Up Now!
Free Catalog Get Yours Now!

SmartPak Equine is the premier online provider of horse supplies and equine supplements.
Questions? Call us Toll-Free at 1-888-752-5171. © Copyright 2013 by SmartPak Equine LLC. All Rights reserved.