Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Foaling mares are totally relaxed – no stress

11.06.2014

It is often assumed that giving birth is both stressful and painful for the mother. This may be the case for humans but does it also apply to horses or are we transferring human experiences to the animals?

Scientists at the Vetmeduni Vienna have investigated the stress associated with birth in horses and other domestic animals. The findings show that contrary to expectations horse mares appear to be completely relaxed when foaling. The results are published in the Journal Theriogenology.


Foaling appears to cause the opposite of a stress response.

(Photo: Vetmeduni Vienna)

Foaling in horses is extremely fast. Labour and the active part of foaling, resulting in delivery of the foal, take 10 to 20 minutes and are considerably shorter than giving birth in humans or in cows. Is this brief period stressful for the animals or are horses more relaxed than humans when giving birth?

This issue has been addressed by Christina Nagel and colleagues, who closely observed 17 foalings at the Brandenburg State Stud in Neustadt (Dosse), Germany, as well as recording electrocardiograms before, during and after foaling. The researchers also took samples of saliva and blood and analysed the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine. As Nagel summarizes, “Normal foaling appears to cause just the opposite of a stress response”.

Cardiac and circulatory demands remain at a low level

Surprisingly, during labour the heart rate of mares does not increase. On the contrary, the mares even miss some individual heart beats due to delayed stimulus conduction in the heart. In humans, such second-degree atriventricular (AV) blocks often require medical treatment but many healthy horses show AV blocks at rest. On physical activity, e.g. when the horse is ridden, the heart beat becomes regular and the beat frequency increases. The finding of AV blocks during foaling suggests that mares are strongly influenced by the parasympathetic nervous system, which usually causes a state of rest and relaxation. Its antagonist, the sympathetic nervous system, would prepare the organism for a stress response but does not seem to be active while the animals are giving birth.

No stress during foaling

The level of stress hormones remains low in foaling mares and the researchers did not find an adrenaline rush at any point. Foaling clearly does not evoke a stress response. The need to care for the newly born foal was also not perceived as stressful: contact between the mare and the foal was associated with a further state of relief and relaxation.
Horses thus experience giving birth very differently from human mothers. They need a safe environment to give birth: all the foals in the study were born at night, when the stable was quiet. As the Head of the Research Group, Christine Aurich, explains, “Parturition in horses requires a state of relaxation in the mare. This is an advantage in wild horses because mares can postpone labour until they perceive the environment as calm and safe. Once this is the case, foaling proceeds within a very short time.”

The article “Parturition in horses is dominated by parasympathetic activity of the autonomous nervous system”, by Christina Nagel, Regina Erber, Natascha Ille, Mareike von Lewinski, Jörg Aurich, Erich Möstl and Christine Aurich has just been published in the scientific journal Theriogenology.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.theriogenology.2014.03.015

The study was conducted at the Graf Lehndorff Institute for Equine Science, a joint research unit of the Vetmeduni Vienna and the Brandenburg State Stud at Neustadt (Dosse), Germany.

About the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna
The University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna in Austria is one of the leading academic and research institutions in the field of Veterinary Sciences in Europe. About 1,200 employees and 2,300 students work on the campus in the north of Vienna which also houses five university clinics and various research sites. Outside of Vienna the university operates Teaching and Research Farms. http://www.vetmeduni.ac.at

Scientific Contact:
Dr. Christina Nagel
Clinical Unit of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Andrology
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
T +43 1 250776408
christina.nagel@vetmeduni.ac.at

Released by:
Dr. Susanna Kautschitsch
Science Communication / Public Relations
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
T +43 1 25077-1153
susanna.kautschitsch@vetmeduni.ac.at

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.vetmeduni.ac.at/en/infoservice/presseinformation/press-releases-2014/...

Dr. Susanna Kautschitsch | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: Medicine Veterinary Vetmeduni activity birth hormones horses nervous relaxed

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Open-access article on Mexican bean beetles offers control tips
03.02.2016 | Entomological Society of America

nachricht Improved harvest for small farms thanks to naturally cloned crops
29.01.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New study: How stable is the West Antarctic Ice Sheet?

Exceeding critical temperature limits in the Southern Ocean may cause the collapse of ice sheets and a sharp rise in sea levels

A future warming of the Southern Ocean caused by rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere may severely disrupt the stability of the West...

Im Focus: Superconductivity: footballs with no resistance

Indications of light-induced lossless electricity transmission in fullerenes contribute to the search for superconducting materials for practical applications.

Superconductors have long been confined to niche applications, due to the fact that the highest temperature at which even the best of these materials becomes...

Im Focus: Wbp2 is a novel deafness gene

Researchers at King’s College London and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom have for the first time demonstrated a direct link between the Wbp2 gene and progressive hearing loss. The scientists report that the loss of Wbp2 expression leads to progressive high-frequency hearing loss in mouse as well as in two clinical cases of children with deafness with no other obvious features. The results are published in EMBO Molecular Medicine.

The scientists have shown that hearing impairment is linked to hormonal signalling rather than to hair cell degeneration. Wbp2 is known as a transcriptional...

Im Focus: From allergens to anodes: Pollen derived battery electrodes

Pollens, the bane of allergy sufferers, could represent a boon for battery makers: Recent research has suggested their potential use as anodes in lithium-ion batteries.

"Our findings have demonstrated that renewable pollens could produce carbon architectures for anode applications in energy storage devices," said Vilas Pol, an...

Im Focus: Automated driving: Steering without limits

OmniSteer project to increase automobiles’ urban maneuverability begins with a € 3.4 million budget

Automobiles increase the mobility of their users. However, their maneuverability is pushed to the limit by cramped inner city conditions. Those who need to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Travel grants available: Meet the world’s most proficient mathematicians and computer scientists

09.02.2016 | Event News

AKL’16: Experience Laser Technology Live in Europe´s Largest Laser Application Center!

02.02.2016 | Event News

From intelligent knee braces to anti-theft backpacks

26.01.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Travel grants available: Meet the world’s most proficient mathematicians and computer scientists

09.02.2016 | Event News

Body temperature triggers newly developed polymer to change shape

09.02.2016 | Materials Sciences

Using renewable energy in heating networks more efficiently

09.02.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>