Get access

Retrospective evaluation of crib-biting and windsucking behaviours and owner-perceived behavioural traits as risk factors for colic in horses




Reasons for performing study: Although crib-biting (cribbing)/windsucking has previously been associated with 2 types of colic, additional research into the possible role of other behaviours on incidence of colic by type and severity has not been undertaken.

Objectives: To investigate: a relationship between cribbing/windsucking and colic; a relationship between cribbing/windsucking and different types of colic, both medical and surgical; and whether horses displaying specific behaviour traits were more likely to have had colic.

Methods: A matched case-control retrospective study was conducted evaluating horses with various surgical and medical colic diagnoses, admitted to a referral hospital over a 3 year period. Computerised records and a validated internet questionnaire were used to obtain information on owner-perceived behavioural traits and repetitive behaviours.

Results: Cribbing/windsucking was significantly associated with colic but was unassociated with one category or severity of colic over another. No other repetitive behaviour was associated with colic. Age (≥20 years) was significantly associated with colic. An anxious temperament was not associated with risk of colic.

Conclusion: Animals at higher risk for colic may be identified based on history of cribbing/windsucking behaviour, but this behaviour was unassociated with increased risk for a particular category or severity of colic. Horses characterised as being more anxious were not at increased risk for colic.

Potential relevance: There is a need to elucidate a causal relationship between cribbing/windsucking and gastrointestinal function as development of more effective and humane strategies to treat cribbing/windsucking behaviour may help to improve equine welfare and reduce the risk of colic.