Quantitative and qualitative aspects of standing-up behavior and the prevalence of osteochondrosis in Warmblood foals on different farms: Could there be a link?

E.M. van Grevenhof, A.R.D. Gezelle Meerburg, M.C. van Dierendonck, A.J.M. van den Belt, B. van Schaik, P. Meeus, W. Back*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Background: Osteochondrosis (OC) is a common, clinically important joint disorder in which endochondral ossification is focally disturbed. Reduced blood supply to growing cartilage is considered an important cause of the condition, which has both genetic and environmental origins. Housing conditions can influence cartilage injury through peak-pressure changes during limb sliding. Additionally, circulatory perturbation can cause the avascular necrosis of cartilage. In this study, we evaluated the type and frequency of limb sliding during standing up and the occurrence of OC in foals aged up to 12 months on different farms. Methods: Standing-up behavior was observed in 50 weaned, group-housed, Dutch Warmblood foals aged 6-9 months at five farms using black-and-white surveillance cameras, and their standing-up behavior was scored using a predetermined ethogram. OC was scored using a categorical scale between 6 and 12 months of age in 50 foals in the weanling period, and in 48 from the weanling to yearling periods because two foals died in this time. Results: At both 6 and 12 months of age, the total prevalence of OC differed between the farms: the lowest prevalence was observed on a farm with no sliding, and the highest prevalence was evident on a farm with a higher sliding frequency. The mean ratio of sliding versus normal standing-up behavior was 29% (range: 0-50%); i.e., foals experienced limb sliding during around 29% of standing-up maneuvres. The frequency of sliding instead of normal standing-up behavior differed significantly between the farms (range: 0-50%; P < 0.05), but significantly decreased when foals could better prepare themselves to stand, e.g., when there was an obvious provocation such as the announced approach of another foal (P < 0.05). Conclusions: Small but significant differences exist between farms in the sliding frequency and total OC incidence in Warmblood foals, but whether environmental factors are causally related to these differences requires further elucidation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number324
JournalBMC Veterinary Research
Volume13
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2017

Keywords

  • Horses
  • Joint level
  • Osteochondrosis
  • Sliding
  • Standing-up behavior
  • Warmblood foals

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    van Grevenhof, E. M., Gezelle Meerburg, A. R. D., van Dierendonck, M. C., van den Belt, A. J. M., van Schaik, B., Meeus, P., & Back, W. (2017). Quantitative and qualitative aspects of standing-up behavior and the prevalence of osteochondrosis in Warmblood foals on different farms: Could there be a link? BMC Veterinary Research, 13, [324]. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12917-017-1241-y