EQUUS - - Eq Medical Front -

How a horse be­haves dur­ing trans­port can help pre­dict whether he’s likely to de­velop res­pi­ra­tory ill­ness af­ter the jour­ney, ac­cord­ing to a new study from Aus­tralia.

Univer­sity of Sydney re­searchers mon­i­tored 12 horses dur­ing an eight-hour trailer ride, tak­ing par­tic­u­lar note of be­hav­iors as­so­ci­ated with anx­i­ety, such as head toss­ing, bit­ing nearby horses or look­ing out the win­dow. Af­ter the trip, the re­searchers ex­am­ined the horses for phys­i­o­log­i­cal signs of res­pi­ra­tory and im­mune stress, draw­ing blood to test for cor­ti­sol con­cen­tra­tions and swab­bing air­ways to de­ter­mine the bac­te­rial lev­els.

When the re­searchers com­pared each horse’s be­hav­ior pat­terns with signs of res­pi­ra­tory and im­mune stress, they found that those who ex­hib­ited anx­i­ety more fre­quently dur­ing trans­port tended to have higher blood cor­ti­sol lev­els, greater mu­cus ac­cu­mu­la­tions and in­creased bac­te­ria in the air­ways at the end of the trip. In ad­di­tion, the re­searchers note, anx­ious horses spent less time en route and dur­ing rest stops with their heads low­ered, which can help pre­vent air­way dis­ease by en­cour­ag­ing drainage of dust and pathogens.

Recog­ni­tion of anx­i­ety-re­lated be­hav­iors dur­ing travel might al­low pre­emp­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of in­di­vid­ual an­i­mals at in­creased risk for res­pi­ra­tory dis­ease, the re­searchers con­clude.

Ref­er­ence: “Be­hav­iour dur­ing trans­porta­tion pre­dicts stress re­sponse and lower air­way con­tam­i­na­tion in horses,” PLoS One, March 2018

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