Sedatives’ Impact on Equine Lameness Exam Results

Xylazine, detomidine, and romifidine appear to have few effects on lameness exam results when used without butorphanol.
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Regional anesthesia—such as nerve and joint blocks—can provide veterinarians with a wealth of valuable information when they’re examining an unsound horse. But, when a horse is in pain, overstimulated, or just plain uncooperative, placing a needle precisely to administer the analgesia can be challenging or impossible, not to mention dangerous for the practitioner.

One option in these situations is sedating the horse prior to regional anesthesia administration. However, it was unclear whether this would impact the subsequent lameness exam results, as sedation can cause changes in a horse’s gait patterns or make the horse too “sleepy” to lift his legs for flexion tests.

So, a research team from Colorado State University’s (CSU) College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, in Fort Collins, tested the technique and its effects on horses’ gaits. Valerie J. Moorman, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, assistant professor of equine surgery and lameness, shared the team’s results at the 2016 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Convention, held Dec. 3-7 in Orlando, Florida.

Moorman and colleagues tested low doses of three α-2 adrenergic agonists—xylazine, detomidine, and romifidine—along with a saline control. Additionally, the team tested each sedative when administered in combination with butorphanol, an opioid pain reliever often used alongside sedatives. They collected baseline lameness data using subjective and objective exams and repeated both exams 10, 15, 20, 30, and 40 minutes after sedative administration, and three observers evaluated the exams’ results

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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