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Equine Health Resource

Pain Response when Pressure Applied to An Area

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  • If this is the only sign and the horse seems normal otherwise.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
  • If you feel that pain in an area is significant, or worsening.

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    It is helpful to be able to objectively assess pain to touch. Degree of pain is one more indicator of the nature of an injury or how an injured area is healing. Lessening pain should be an indication of progression of healing. Response to pain in an area is very subjective and is often misinterpreted by examiners. A pain response may take the form of evasion, lifting of a limb, twitching the skin, pinning the ears, swishing the tail or attempting to kick. On the other hand, this may simply be a behavioral response independent of pain.

    WHAT TO DO

    You notice a swollen area on your horse and you want to know if it is painful. You touch the area and the horse tries to evade your touch. Is the area really painful to touch or are they simply protecting an injured area. Always repeat the assessment for pain several times. Horses do seem to anticipate pain and seek ti protect an injured area, becoming hypersensitive to any contact.

    Being careful not to be injured by the horse, try to gently desensitize the horse to pressure in the area. This way you can determine whether pain is really the reason for the response. Another way to help gauge the response is to repeat the same stimulus on the horse’s opposite side in the same location. Press near to a swelling or sore. Assess the response there, and then press the site of injury. Repeatedly press the two locations and compare the responses to one another. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

    WHAT YOUR VET DOES

    Your vet uses these similar techniques (and their experience) to objectively assess an area for pain, and add that information to their evaluation of the horse.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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