Equis ISSN 2398-2977

Behavior: coprophagia

Synonym(s): Coprophagy

Contributor(s): Bonnie Beaver, Caroline Hahn

Introduction

  • Coprophagia (consumption of feces) is considered to be normal behavior in horses, especially in foals.
  • Coprophagia has been observed in adult horses maintained on a protein-deficient diet .
  • Has also been associated with motor neurone disease.
  • Coprophagia may result in superinfection with internal parasites.

Pathogenesis

Etiology

  • Has been reported to be associated with protein-deficient diet in adults.

Predisposing factors

General
  • Foals; may be response to maternal pheromones.
  • Protein-deficient diet.
  • Possibly other nutritional deficiency.

Pathophysiology

  • May be induced by pheromones; foals tend to eat feces of their mother.
  • Thought to be normal behavior in foals.
  • May be due to response to maternal feromones.
  • Possible functions:
    • May introduce normal gut flora to foals.
    • Deoxycholic acid in feces may provide protection against enteritis.
    • Deoxycholic acid may be involved in myelination of nervous system.
    • Pheromones may accelerate growth or sexual development.
    • Compensation for nutrient deficiency.
  • May also result from motor neurone disease .

Timecourse

  • Most common in first 2 months of life.

Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Prevention

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Outcomes

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Lyons E T, Swerczek T W, Tolliver S C & Drudge J H (1996) Natural superinfection of Parascaris equorum in a stall-confined orphan horse foal.V et Parasit 66 (1-2), 119-123 PubMed.
  • Divers T J, Mohammed H O, Cummings J F et al (1994) Equine motor neurone disease - findings in 28 horses and proposal of a pathophysiologic mechanism for the disease. Equine Vet J 26 (5), 409-415 PubMed.
  • Crowell-Davis S L and Houpt K A (1985) Coprofagy by foals. Effect of age and possible functions. Equine Vet J 17 (1), 17-19 PubMed.


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