Wind-sucking, Crib-biting, Cribbing: The role of Antioxidants, including Selenium

Wind-sucking/ crib-biting/ cribbing is a compulsive, repetitive behaviour in horses. It is the most prevalent stereotypy in the equine and is characterised by grasping a fixed object with the incisor teeth and aspirating air with an audible grunt.

The habit can negatively effect a wide range of horse health parameters, resulting in conditions such as dental disorders (wear of incisors); temporohyoid joint damage; poor performance; weight loss; colic; and diminished learning.

From a holistic perspective, many factors may contribute to the development of wind-sucking. Much emphasis is deservedly placed on diet and management. Research in recent years has highlighted higher levels of oxidative stress in horses which wind-suck.

Continuing along the oxidative stress theory, recent research has demonstrated wind-suckers to have lower serum levels of selenium. Selenium is an essential trace mineral which plays many important biological roles in the equine: one of these being its role as a potent antioxidant.

Whilst selenium must be considered, supplementing selenium without looking at and addressing the horse’s overall health, nutrition and management is not recommended. Selenium is a nutrient which has a low threshold for toxicity, and should only be supplemented judiciously.

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