What is equine clinical ethology? | Pet care.

Ethology is the scientific and comparative study of animal behavior. From this knowledge we can identify different patterns of normal behavior (behavior of power, social, sexual, maternal, grooming, game, excreta disposal, etc.). This study covers both the fixed guidelines (innate behaviors) and acquired components (learning) of conduct, investigating the origin, development, control, Adaptive value and the evolution of behavior.
clip_image009
When we add to this the knowledge of veterinary medicine (Anatomy, Physiology, pathology, pharmacology, etc.) we are able to diagnose various problems of behaviour of our patients, and thus to establish a prognosis, treatment, and better still, make changes to management to prevent its occurrence. And it is here, where is born the clinical ethologyas a new specialty of veterinary medicine.
In order to establish a correct diagnosis of the problem is uses the etiological examination, which assesses different aspects of the patient such as direct observation of the behavior of the patient, a general physical examination of the animal to rule out any systemic disease that may be causing pain, anxiety or stress in the horse and an interview with the responsible persons of the animal to know in depth the history of the animal and its personality.
Behavior problems therapy is based on four basic pillars; environmental enrichment, modification of conduct, therapy drug and, in some cases, surgery.

  1. Environmental enrichment is to change some features of the habitat of the patient according to their specific needs.
  2. Modification of conduct (or psychotherapy) consists of the application of techniques based on learning to modify behavior, such as habituation, systematic desensitization and the counterconditioning.
  3. The use of medicines of central action (psychoactive drugs) to promote behavioral change involves the use of anxiolytics, antidepressants, stimulants of the S.N.C., hormones, etc.
  4. The most common surgical treatment is the neuter, which is often used in cases that will not be used for reproduction and present behavior of high excitement and very difficult.
It is important to note that in the majority of behavioral problems treatment includes the combination of several of these elements to have better results.
In the clinic of the behavior Animal of the Faculty of veterinary medicine of Complutense University of Madrid, veterinarians with previous experience in field work in veterinary medicine working in this area to offer one more tool in favour of the well-being of our horses, thus preventing animal abuse and neglect.

Behavior problems

There are a wide variety of behavior problems in horses. The most frequent are the compulsive behaviors or stereotypic movements (commonly known as vices of block), aggressive behavior, eating disorders and the reactions of fear arising from a lack of socialization.
  • Aggression: Horses are very reactive to the environment; and have highly developed the ability of flight, as a prey animal, is essential for wildlife. Front of an aversive stimulus that may cause fear, the horse will attempt to flee. If you are subject it will react with violence, it will rotate suddenly, dragging whom is on its way. In fact, the horse is not fighting, is trying to escape. This aggression can head towards other horses, the caregiver or a bad rider.
  • Eating disorders: Among possible causes are those that differ from the natural form; restricted access to food, long periods without food, excess of concentrated nutrients, high energy and molasses, competition and stress around the food. The most frequent, among others, are the pica (intake of matter not edible as chip, stones, sand, wood, etc.) and the coprophagia (eating feces).
  • Compulsive behaviors or stereotypic movements: can happen in certain situations either become widespread, always taking place under situations of stress and anxiety. Typical examples are the shot of bear (or rolling), nod, biting wood, swallowing air, tumbling in the box.
  • Fears: Some of the most violent situations is living day to day with horses are reactions of fear before any stimulus. Fears can be derived, mainly from a lack of socialization, and early childhood education. Most common examples are fear to rise to the van, pass over the sewer or crossing pools and rivers.

Preventive medicine in ethology: classes for Colts

clip_image010
Like many other species of prey, the horse is a species that we call early, because they are born fully developed and they can react to a threat shortly after. In these species, early socialization can begin immediately after birth and is in foal to familiarize with all objects, stimuli and procedures that will to live throughout his life. For example: using the noseband and the frame to put bands of rest after training be guided by people (ramaleado), climb down a trailer, and allow the handling of all parts of your body, etc.
Classes for ponies of the Animal behavior clinic focuses on early childhood education as a primary tool for the prevention of problems of behaviour in horses. The animals involved in classes for ponies and receive early handling (during the first 3 months of life) are more receptive when you start sports training to the Colts who have not had such manipulation during that period. A good socialization during the first months of life is essential to create respect and a good link man-animal, avoid fear and physical resistance which usually occurs in adult horses when faced with situations that are not used.
Published for educational purposes