Recognition of pain and use of analgesia in horses by veterinarians in New Zealand

Recognition of pain and use of analgesia in horses by veterinarians in New Zealand
Peer reviewed


AIM: To explore attitudes towards and use of analgesia in horses by veterinarians in New Zealand.
METHODS: A postal questionnaire was sent out to 457 veterinarians identified as working with horses in New Zealand. Questions covered demographics and practice data; analgesic drugs available for use and used in practice; analgesic management of specific conditions including assessment of pain, drugs used, and frequency of cases; factors influencing the choice and use of analgesic agents; and attitudes and personal experience.
RESULTS: Ninety-seven questionnaires containing useable data were received, a response rate of 23%. Respondents’ demographics corresponded with those of the veterinary population at the time. Phenylbutazone, flunixin, xylazine, ketamine, butorphanol, dexamethasone and lignocaine were the drugs most commonly used. Respondents allocated pain scores with a range of at least eight points (on a scale of 1 to 10) between lower and upper scores for 13/17 conditions and procedures presented. Respondents identified analgesic potency and anti-inflammatory effect as the most important factors in their choice of drug. Sixty-three percent and 59% of respondents considered their knowledge of recognition of pain and analgesia, respectively, to be adequate.
CONCLUSIONS: The results of the survey indicate that analgesia was widely used for horses amongst responding veterinarians. However, there were a number of areas where there appeared to be a lack of consensus amongst respondents in their management of pain in horses, and these included assessment of pain, administration of analgesics, and, indeed, what constitutes analgesia.
CLINICAL RELEVANCE: While analgesia of horses is widely practised in New Zealand, it would appear that a lack of consistency amongst veterinarians could indicate less than optimal pain relief in some cases and for some procedures.
KEY WORDS: Veterinarians, horses, pain, analgesia, welfare, New Zealand

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