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

N. Waran, V. M. Williams, N. Clarke, I. S. Bridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)274-280
Number of pages7
JournalNew zealand veterinary journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


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