EQUUS - - Eq Medical Front -

A new study from Eng­land sug­gests that a horse who isn’t pay­ing at­ten­tion to his sur­round­ings may not be grumpy or de­pressed but in­stead may be in pain.

Re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Bris­tol tested the re­ac­tions of 20 horses to novel ob­jects---a pool “noo­dle” and a swim­ming flip­per ----and to sounds just prior to and after a sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dure. For com­par­i­son, the re­searchers doc­u­mented the re­sponses to the same stim­uli of 16 con­trol horses who did not un­dergo surgery.

The data showed that horses who un­der­went surgery spent sig­nif­i­cantly less time in­ter­act­ing with novel ob­jects im­me­di­ately after the pro­ce­dure than they had be­fore­hand. No dif­fer­ence in in­ter­ac­tion times was seen in the con­trol horses when they en­coun­tered the un­usual items a sec­ond time.

Sim­i­larly, the study horses were less likely to re­act to an un­usual noise---from a hair dryer---after surgery, while the re­ac­tions of the con­trol horses did not change from one ex­po­sure to the noise to the next.

The re­searchers con­clude that post­sur­gi­cal dis­com­fort has an ef­fect on re­sponse and star­tle times, and “tasks de­mand­ing at­ten­tion may be use­ful as a biomarker of pain.”

Ref­er­ence: “The ef­fect of post­sur­gi­cal pain on at­ten­tional pro­cess­ing in horses,” Vet­eri­nary Anaes­the­sia and Anal­ge­sia, May 2017

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