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Development of the Horse Grimace Scale (HGS) as a Pain Assessment Tool in Horses Undergoing Routine Castration

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Matthew Leach

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Abstract

Background: The assessment of pain is critical for the welfare of horses, in particular when pain is induced by common management procedures such as castration. Existing pain assessment methods have several limitations, which reduce the applicability in everyday life. Assessment of facial expression changes, as a novel means of pain scoring, may offer numerous advantages and overcome some of these limitations. The objective of this study was to develop and validate a standardised pain scale based on facial expressions in horses (Horse Grimace Scale [HGS]). Methodology/Principal Findings: Forty stallions were assigned to one of two treatments and all animals underwent routine surgical castration under general anaesthesia. Group A (n = 19) received a single injection of Flunixin immediately before anaesthesia. Group B (n = 21) received Flunixin immediately before anaesthesia and then again, as an oral administration, six hours after the surgery. In addition, six horses were used as anaesthesia controls (C). These animals underwent non-invasive, indolent procedures, received the same treatment as group A, but did not undergo surgical procedures that could be accompanied with surgical pain. Changes in behaviour, composite pain scale (CPS) scores and horse grimace scale (HGS) scores were assessed before and 8-hours post-procedure. Only horses undergoing castration (Groups A and B) showed significantly greater HGS and CPS scores at 8-hours post compared to pre operatively. Further, maintenance behaviours such as explorative behaviour and alertness were also reduced. No difference was observed between the two analgesic treatment groups. Conclusions: The Horse Grimace Scale potentially offers an effective and reliable method of assessing pain following routine castration in horses. However, auxiliary studies are required to evaluate different painful conditions and analgesic schedules.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Dalla Costa E, Minero M, Lebelt D, Stucke D, Canali E, Leach MC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PLoS ONE

Year: 2014

Volume: 9

Issue: 3

Online publication date: 19/03/2014

Acceptance date: 21/02/2014

Date deposited: 21/05/2014

ISSN (electronic): 1932-6203

Publisher: Public Library of Science

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0092281

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092281


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