Pain assessment in horses after orthopaedic surgery and with orthopaedic trauma

Vet J. 2019 Apr;246:85-91. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2019.02.001. Epub 2019 Feb 10.


Objective pain assessment is important to guide and tailor therapy in clinical practice. This study describes the clinical applicability and validity of two pain scales, the Composite Pain Scale (CPS) and the Equine Utrecht University Scale for Facial Assessment of Pain (EQUUS-FAP) in horses with orthopaedic trauma or after orthopaedic surgery. A cohort follow-up study was performed using 77 adult horses (n=43 with orthopaedic trauma or injury; n=34 controls). Composite and facial expression-based pain scores were assessed by direct observations of pairs of two independent observers. All horses were assessed at arrival, and on the first and second day after arrival or after surgery. Both CPS and EQUUS-FAP scores demonstrated high inter-observer reliability (Crohnbach's alpha=0.97 for CPS; Crohnbach's alpha=0.93 for EQUUS-FAP; P<0.001), with low bias (0.07 and -0.08 respectively) and limits of agreement of -1.9 to 1.9 for CPS and -1.9 to 1.9 for EQUUS-FAP. Both CPS and EQUUS-FAP scores showed significant differences between control horses and orthopaedic cases (P<0.001). Trauma cases had significantly higher pain scores compared to postoperative cases for both CPS (P<0.05) and for EQUUS-FAP (P<0.01) and both pain scores significantly decreased after nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) administration. In accordance with the findings in other types of equine pain, the CPS and FAP proved useful and valid for objective and repeatable assessment of pain in horses with orthopaedic trauma or after orthopaedic surgery. This can further aid treatment of horses in clinical practice and might improve equine welfare.

Keywords: Composite pain scale; Equine; Facial expression; Orthopaedic; Pain.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Bone and Bones / injuries*
  • Face
  • Female
  • Horses / injuries
  • Horses / surgery*
  • Male
  • Observer Variation
  • Orthopedic Procedures / veterinary*
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Pain Measurement / veterinary*
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy
  • Pain, Postoperative / veterinary*
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal