Equine Pain Score Research from Horse Owners and Veterinarians

Assessments of the degree of pain that horses are experiencing vary widely among horse owners and equine veterinarians.

Assessments of the degree of pain that horses are experiencing vary widely among horse owners and equine veterinarians. Amy Dragoo

An important step toward improving communication between veterinarians and horse owners is to understand the factors that influence attitudes and beliefs about pain severity so that communication and consensus-building can be facilitated.

A research paper was published in January 2022 in the Equine Veterinary Journal titled, “Pain severity scores for common equine disorders as provided by horse owners and equine veterinarians.” It was authored by Debra C. Sellon, Macarena Sanz, Jamie J. Kopper and Debora Mattei.

The aim of this cross-sectional study was to compare estimates of pain experienced by horses as provided by veterinarians and horse owners and to determine factors associated with individuals who perceive horses to be experiencing extreme pain or minimal pain.

Internet-based questionnaires were completed by horse owners and veterinarians and included items related to recognition of pain in horses, estimated degree of pain experienced by horses and demographic information. Variables associated with perception of a high or low degree of pain were investigated using logistic regression analyses.

Final data sets included responses from 553 horse owners and 263 veterinarians. 

Pain scores varied widely and differences in median scores from horse owners and veterinarians were small. 

Horse owners providing high pain ratings were more likely to have <10 horses (odds ratio [OR] = 2.0, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.1–3.5) and to not have a college degree (OR = 1.5, 95% CI = 1.0–2.2). 

Those providing low pain ratings were less likely to own <10 horses (OR = 0.6, 95% CI = 0.4–0.9). 

Veterinarians providing high pain ratings were more likely to be employed in a mixed animal practice (OR = 2.8, 95% CI = 1.3–5.9) and to lack board certification in a veterinary specialty (OR = 2.1, 95% CI = 1.1–4.2). 

Veterinarians providing low pain ratings were more likely to be male (OR = 2.4, 95% CI = 1.3–4.2).

Bottom Line

Assessments of the degree of pain that horses are experiencing vary widely among horse owners and equine veterinarians.

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