I have a horse that cribs all the time. How bad is this for him, and is there any way to stop him permanently?

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Q:I have a horse that cribs all the time. He is always hanging his teeth over his stall or the fence and sucking air. How bad is this for him, and is there any way to stop him permanently?

A:Cribbing is when a horse places its front teeth on a horizontal surface, arches its neck, and pulls backwards. This behavior is usually associated with a grunting noise as the horse gulps air, and is often referred to as wind sucking or aerophagia. This is a vice that many stalled horses pick up because of boredom. The habit is one that horse owners need to catch early if they are to be effective in breaking it.

If cribbing is left alone, and it worsens, it can become more than just an annoyance. If left unchecked, the horse will wear down its front teeth prematurely. In extreme cases, the teeth become so worn that they do not meet when the mouth is closed, which can lead to the second problem, weight loss. Weight loss associated with cribbing can occur because the horse wears its teeth down so far that grazing becomes a problem, or the horse fills its stomach with air rather than grass, hay, or grain and therefore causes a loss in body condition.

As if these problems weren’t enough, colic is also known to be a complication of cribbing. Colic from cribbing is caused by the ingestion of air, which causes gas distention in the intestinal tract. Therefore, if the annoyance of the horse destroying property alone is not enough to prompt action, think of the physiological complications brought on by cribbing

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Written by:

Thomas C. Bohanon, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, accepted a position as equine surgeon at Glenwood Veterinary Clinic in 2003, after he and his family spent a five years abroad on a 46 foot catamaran, visiting Turkey, Italy, and New Zealand. Dr. Bohanon became a full partner at GVC in 2005. Dr. Bohanon’s professional interests center around lameness evaluation and all types of equine surgery. He has published multiple papers in refereed journals and spoken locally, nationally, and internationally on these interests and his research. More information about Dr. Bohanon can be found at””homas C. Bohanon

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