What are the signs of a horse in pain?
A horse's behavior and interactions can be unique to the type of pain it is experiencing. A horse's reaction to pain is dependent upon its personality and the degree of pain it is experiencing. The characteristics listed below do not include ever...
A horse's behavior and interactions can be unique to the type of pain it is experiencing. A horse's reaction to pain is dependent upon its personality and the degree of pain it is experiencing. The characteristics listed below do not include everything that you may see, but the list gives you a general idea of what to look for if you think a horse is in pain. Some of these characteristics are also things you will see when a horse is anxious or nervous or in poor health. Remember that there is no substitute for being familiar with an individual horse in order to recognize how it shows pain.
- Reluctance to be handled.
- Prolonged pain may cause behavior to change from restlessness to depression with lowered head.
- Rigid stance.
- Head pressing.
- Interrupted feeding (food held in mouth uneaten).
- Anxious appearance.
- Dilated pupils and glassy eyes.
- Flared nostrils.
- Muscle tremors.
- Profuse sweating.
- Increased respiratory rate and pulse rate .
Pain associated with musculoskeletal Injury (may also include signs listed under acute pain):
- Reluctance to move.
- Limbs held in unusual positions.
- Alterations in weight bearing, including weight-shifting from one limb to another.
- Head and neck in a fixed position.
- Head "bob" (change from neutral head position during walking, trotting, running; head moves up from neutral with forelimb pain, and head moves down from neutral with hindlimb pain).
- Changes in recumbency time (increased or decreased).
- Abnormal gait.
- Decrease in eating and drinking.
Abdominal Pain (may also include signs listed under acute pain):
- Look, bite, or kick at abdomen.
- Straining and splinting of the abdomen.
- Get up and lie down frequently.
- Walking in circles.
- Standing rigid and unmoving when near collapse.
- Groaning, teeth grinding, and "calling" to herd members.
- Weight loss.
- Changes in eating and drinking.
- Changes in sleeping/recumbency times.
- Changes in social behavior.
- Changes (decreases) in responses to outside stimuli.
Adapted from the National Research Council: Recognition and Alleviation of Pain and Distress in Laboratory Animals. National Academy Press, Washington, 1992.