Researchers Test ‘Composite Pain Scale’ for Horses

The composite pain scale lists common behaviors often seen in horses suffering from either abdominal or musculoskeletal pain.
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Researchers Test ‘Composite Pain Scale’ for Horses
The composite pain scale lists common pain behaviors that could be seen in most horses suffering from either abdominal or musculoskeletal pain and includes a few physiological parameters such as breathing frequency, intestinal sounds, and rectal temperature. | Photo: Thinkstock
If only horses could speak up and let us know when something hurts, right? Guess what: They can.

Dutch researchers recently learned that, although horses can’t speak, they do have distinct ways of communicating pain. It’s just up to us to learn to recognize them.

Thijs van Loon, PhD, of Utrecht University in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and his fellow researchers have developed what they call the “composite pain scale,” or CPS. The CPS lists common pain behaviors that could be seen in most horses suffering from either abdominal or musculoskeletal pain and includes a few physiological parameters such as breathing frequency, intestinal sounds, and rectal temperature.

“The difficulty with evaluating pain in horses is that they cannot tell us how much pain they’re in or where it hurts,” van Loon told The Horse. “And that’s complicated by the fact that horses are prey animals, and they will naturally tend to hide their level of pain as a survival mechanism

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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