The physiological consequences of crib-biting in horses in response to an ACTH challenge test

Briefer Freymond, S.; Bardou, D.; Briefer, E.F.; Bruckmaier, Rupert; Fouché, Nathalie Elisa; Fleury, J.; Maigrot, A.-L.; Ramseyer, Alessandra; Zuberbühler, K.; Bachmann, I. (2015). The physiological consequences of crib-biting in horses in response to an ACTH challenge test. Physiology & behavior, 151, pp. 121-128. Elsevier 10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.07.015

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Stereotypies are repetitive and relatively invariant patterns of behavior, which are observed in a wide range of species in captivity. Stereotypic behavior occurs when environmental demands produce a physiological response that, if sustained for an extended period, exceeds the natural physiological regulatory capacity of the organism, particularly in situations that include unpredictability and uncontrollability. One hypothesis is that stereotypic behavior functions to cope with stressful environments, but the existing evidence is contradictory. To address the coping hypothesis of stereotypies, we triggered physiological reactions in 22 horses affected by stereotypic behavior (crib-biters) and 21 non-crib-biters (controls), using an ACTH challenge test. Following administration of an ACTH injection, we measured saliva cortisol every 30min and heart rate (HR) continuously for a period of 3h. We did not find any differences in HR or HR variability between the two groups, but crib-biters (Group CB) had significantly higher cortisol responses than controls (Group C; mean±SD: CB, 5.84±2.62ng/ml, C, 4.76±3.04ng/ml). Moreover, crib-biters that did not perform the stereotypic behavior during the 3-hour test period (Group B) had significantly higher cortisol levels than controls, which was not the case of crib-biters showing stereotypic behavior (Group A) (B, 6.44±2.38ng/ml A, 5.58±2.69ng/ml). Our results suggest that crib-biting is a coping strategy that helps stereotypic individuals to reduce cortisol levels caused by stressful situations. We conclude that preventing stereotypic horses from crib-biting could be an inappropriate strategy to control this abnormal behavior, as it prevents individuals from coping with situations that they perceive as stressful.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine (DKV) > Equine Clinic
05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine (DKV)
05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health (DCR-VPH) > Veterinary Physiology
05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health (DCR-VPH)

UniBE Contributor:

Bruckmaier, Rupert; Fouché, Nathalie Elisa and Ramseyer, Alessandra

Subjects:

600 Technology > 630 Agriculture

ISSN:

0031-9384

Publisher:

Elsevier

Language:

English

Submitter:

Andrea Gassmann-Suter

Date Deposited:

06 Nov 2015 09:16

Last Modified:

09 Sep 2017 23:04

Publisher DOI:

10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.07.015

PubMed ID:

26187578

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.72554

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/72554

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