Radiographic and endoscopic study of horses performing an oral based stereotypy



There is confusion in the veterinary literature concerning the definition of oral based stereotypies in the horse. This study reports the use of fluoroscopy and endoscopy during crib-biting/wind-sucking in afflicted horses. This permitted observations of movements of the pharyngeal and oesophageal tissues and of the air column within during the stereotypic behaviour. The findings reported show that the sequence of events during crib-biting/wind-sucking is not related to deglutition and that air is not swallowed to the stomach. Transient dilation of the upper oesophagus was recorded and the characteristic noise of wind-sucking coincided with the in-rush of air through the cricopharynx. The oesophageal distension was relieved when the air returned to the pharynx although small quantities passed caudally. It is proposed that the role of contraction of the strap muscles of the neck is to create a pressure gradient in the soft tissues surrounding the oesophagus which provokes movement of air from the pharynx into the oesophagus. The findings suggest that the definitions currently used in the sale of horses are in need of revision.