EQUUS - - Eq Medical Front -

A new study from Eng­land pro­vides fur­ther ev­i­dence that horses who crib are at greater risk of re­cur­rent colic and also iden­ti­fied weav­ing as another ha­bit­ual be­hav­ior as­so­ci­ated with di­ges­tive up­set.

Univer­sity of Liver­pool re­searchers col­lected data on 127 horses with a his­tory of med­i­cal colic, in­ter­view­ing the own­ers at four-month in­ter­vals. The in­for­ma­tion col­lected in­cluded each horse’s health sta­tus, be­hav­ior and man­age­ment rou­tine.

“We asked own­ers to in­form us about any fur­ther colic episodes oc­cur­ring dur­ing the year,” says Claire Scantle­bury, BVSc. “Dur­ing the course of the year, some horses had colic more than once, and th­ese episodes oc­curred at dif­fer­ent times dur­ing the follow-up pe­riod. For some horses this hap­pened quickly; for oth­ers, colic re­curred up to a year or more later. This co­hort study was able to ex­am­ine the risk fac­tors in­volved in a horse hav­ing a fur­ther episode of colic.”

The data showed that horses who cribbed were 10 times more likely to have re­peated episodes of colic. “This sup­ports the grow­ing ev­i­dence that horses who ex­hibit crib bit­ing or wind­suck­ing be­hav­ior may be at greater risk of colic,” says Scantle­bury, who cau­tions that the study does not in­di­cate that crib­bing causes colic, sim­ply that there may be a link. “The rea­sons for

this pos­si­ble link are likely to be com­plex and may in­clude a com­bi­na­tion of par­tic­u­lar as­pects of a horse’s man­age­ment, his be­hav­ioral or per­son­al­ity traits, or phys­i­o­log­i­cal rea­sons, to name a few ex­am­ples.”

The study also re­vealed a pre­vi­ously uniden­ti­fied link be­tween weav­ing and re­cur­rent colic. Horses who weaved---shift­ing weight from one fore­foot to the other with a sway­ing mo­tion of the head and neck---were four times more likely to colic re­peat­edly.

“Although weav­ing is clas­si­fied as a be­hav­ioral stereo­typy, it may have sev­eral un­der­ly­ing causes, some of which may be sim­i­lar to crib-bit­ing,” says Scantle­bury. “Pre­vi­ous stud­ies have sug­gested a num­ber of pos­si­ble fac­tors that may lead to the de­vel­op­ment of weav­ing, in­clud­ing con­fine­ment within a sta­ble, re­duced so­cial con­tact with other horses, an­tic­i­pa­tory be­hav­ior or man­age­ment fac­tors. Some of th­ese have al­ready been iden­ti­fied as risk fac­tors for colic.”

Not sur­pris­ingly, the re­searchers found that in­creased turnout time re­duced the risk of colic: Horses turned out for 12 hours a day had almost half the colic risk than did those who were kept in stalls. The re­searchers ad­vised that any changes be in­tro­duced slowly and pas­ture man­age­ment and ac­cess to grazing be ap­pro­pri­ately bal­anced to min­i­mize colic risk while con­sid­er­ing lamini­tis risks and other health con­cerns.

Ref­er­ence: “Man­age­ment and horse­level risk fac­tors for re­cur­rent colic in the UK gen­eral equine prac­tice pop­u­la­tion,” Equine Vet­eri­nary Jour­nal, April 2014

RISKY BUSINESS: New re­search sug­gests that horses who crib—bit­ing an ob­ject and gulp­ing air—are 10 times more likely to have re­peated colic episodes.

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