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Article

Objective Assessment of Chronic Pain in Horses Using the Horse Chronic Pain Scale (HCPS): A Scale-Construction Study

1
Department of Equine Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, 3584 CM Utrecht, The Netherlands
2
Equine Department, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zürich, CH-8057 Zürich, Switzerland
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Mandy Paterson and Clive Julian Christie Phillips
Animals 2021, 11(6), 1826; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11061826
Received: 11 April 2021 / Revised: 6 June 2021 / Accepted: 16 June 2021 / Published: 18 June 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Towards a better assessment of acute pain in equines)
The objective assessment of acute pain in horses can be performed by means of different types of pain scales. To date, no studies have been conducted to develop a structured pain measuring tool for the assessment of chronic pain in horses. In donkeys, a pain scale incorporating behavioural and facial expression-based parameters has been shown to be of added value in assessing chronic pain. In this study, we used the same concept to develop a pain scale (the Horse Chronic Pain Scale; HCPS) to measure chronic pain in horses, based on behavioural parameters and facial expressions. This pain scale was tested in 26 horses with different types of chronic pain (osteoarthritis, chronic laminitis, chronic back and neck problems, chronic dental disorders) and 27 healthy control animals. The authors found the HCPS to be a reproducible pain scale and useful to assess chronic pain in horses. Further studies are needed to confirm these findings in other horses and to validate its use in subsets of horses with specific chronic pain states.
The objective assessment of chronic pain is of utmost importance for improving welfare and quality of life in horses. Freedom from disease and pain is one of the ‘five freedoms’ that are necessary for animal welfare. The aim of this study was to develop a pain scale for the assessment of chronic pain in horses (Horse Chronic Pain Scale; HCPS), which is based on behavioural and facial expressions. The scale was used to assess 53 horses (26 horses diagnosed with chronic painful conditions by means of clinical examination and additional diagnostic procedures (consisting of osteoarthritis, chronic laminitis, chronic back and neck problems, chronic dental disorders) and 27 healthy control animals). Animals were assessed once daily for three consecutive days by two observers that were blinded to the condition of the animals and were unaware of any analgesic treatment regimens. The HCPS consists of two parts, the Horse Chronic Pain Composite Pain Scale (HCP CPS, with behavioural parameters) and the EQUUS-FAP (Equine Utrecht University Scale for Facial Assessment of Pain). The HCP CPS had good inter-observer reliability (intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) = 0.84, p < 0.001), while the EQUUS-FAP component (with facial expression-based parameters) had poor inter-observer reliability (ICC = 0.45, p < 0.05). The inter-observer reliability of the combined HCPS was good (ICC = 0.78, p < 0.001). The HCPS revealed significant differences between horses with chronic painful conditions and control horses on 2 out of 3 days (p < 0.05). In conclusion, we tested a composite pain scale for the assessment of chronic pain in horses based on behavioural and facial expression-based parameters. Further studies are needed to validate this pain scale before it can be used in practice. View Full-Text
Keywords: chronic; composite; horse facial expression; pain; equine; welfare chronic; composite; horse facial expression; pain; equine; welfare
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MDPI and ACS Style

van Loon, J.P.A.M.; Macri, L. Objective Assessment of Chronic Pain in Horses Using the Horse Chronic Pain Scale (HCPS): A Scale-Construction Study. Animals 2021, 11, 1826. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11061826

AMA Style

van Loon JPAM, Macri L. Objective Assessment of Chronic Pain in Horses Using the Horse Chronic Pain Scale (HCPS): A Scale-Construction Study. Animals. 2021; 11(6):1826. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11061826

Chicago/Turabian Style

van Loon, Johannes P.A.M., and Lucia Macri. 2021. "Objective Assessment of Chronic Pain in Horses Using the Horse Chronic Pain Scale (HCPS): A Scale-Construction Study" Animals 11, no. 6: 1826. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11061826

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