Development of an Equine Saliva Collection Bit to Assess Animal Welfare

Aviva Vincent, Seibel Lauren, Robin Peth Pierce, Meghan Morrisey, Mary Acri, Dana Seag, Kimberly Hoagwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


(1) Background: Accounting for the well-being of equine partners is a responsibility of those engaged in Equine-Assisted Services (EAS). Researchers took heed of this call to action by developing an innovative way to collect data to assess the physiological indicators of stress in equine participants. The collection of saliva is considered to be a minimally invasive method of data collection and is typically performed using a cotton swab; however, in equines, the introduction of a foreign object may induce stress; (2) Methods: Researchers used a modified bit to collect pooled saliva in an effort to further reduce stress during the saliva collection process. Additionally, the collection of pooled saliva, via the bit, increases the opportunity to consider additional analyses, such as oxytocin, which is more reliable in pooled saliva than site-specific saliva captured with a swab; (3) Results: A data analysis demonstrated that ample saliva was captured using the modified bit. Observational data supported that the horses demonstrated fewer physical stress signals to the bit than to the swab. Thus, the modified bit is a feasible and valid method for equine salivary sample collection; (4) Conclusions: The results suggest that the modified bit provides a viable method to collect equine saliva and supports national calls to prioritize animal welfare analysis, specifically for horses used within EAS. Future research should enhance methodological rigor, including in the process and timing, thereby contributing to the bit’s validation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalVeterinary Sciences
StatePublished - 2021


  • Equine welfare
  • Equine assisted services
  • oxytocin
  • human-animal interaction


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