Cortisol Test Might Detect Horses at Higher Risk for Colic

The cortisol circadian rhythm ratio can identify horses under chronic stress and at risk for colic.

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Preventing colic often is easier than dealing with it. But how can you tell if your horse is at risk for colicking and, thus, make necessary adjustments to his life to reduce his colic risk? A group of Brazilian researchers recently proposed that a fairly simple method, known as cortisol circadian rhythm (CCR) ratio, could be used to identify horses under chronic stress, which could indicate a higher likelihood of colic.

Rafael Faleiros, DVM, PhD, a professor at Federal University of Minas Gerais and author on the study, explained that the CCR ratio is a "simple method proposed by Dr. Robert Douglas (PhD) from BET Laboratories to assess the CCR," involving two blood samples taken eight hours apart. Cortisol, which is primarily produced by the adrenal gland, is often termed the "stress hormone" because its levels rise in response to stress in horses and other species.

"A CCR ratio below 0.30 indicates that there is an abnormal stimulus to the production of cortisol," Faleiros explained

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Casie Bazay is a freelance and young adult writer, as well as a certified equine acupressure practitioner. She also hosts a blog, The Naturally Healthy Horse. Once an avid barrel racer, she now enjoys giving back to the horses who have given her so much.

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