TRANSPORT STRESS LINKED TO DISEASE RISK
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