How to observe the severity of colic
Colic is one of the most important causes of morbidity and mortality in horses. The composite pain scales have been described for various types of pain and the facial expression has been used to assess the presence and severity of pain. This study presents the validation of two recently described pain scales, the Equine Utrecht University Scale for Composite Pain Assessment (EQUUS-COMPASS) and the Equine Utrecht University Scale for Facial Assessment of Pain (EQUUS-FAP), in horses with acute colic.
23 horses with acute colic and 23 healthy control horses were analysed on colic-like behaviour. Behavioural criteria (posture, lying down, rolling, sweating, tail flicking, kicking at abdomen, pawing at floor, head movements, pain sounds) and interaction criteria (overall appearance, reaction to observer, reaction to palpation) were analysed in the EQUUS-COMPASS and facial expression criteria (head position, eyelids, focus, nostrils, lips and corners of mouth, muscular tone, ears, flehming and/or yawning, teeth grinding and/or moaning) were analysed in the EQUUS-FAP.
Both pain scales showed statistically signiﬁcant differences between horses with colic and healthy control horses, and between horses with colic that could be treated conservatively and those that required surgical treatment or were euthanised. Both the EQUUS-COMPASS and EQUUS-FAP scores can be used for reliable and reproducible pain assessment in horses with acute colic. The EQUUS-FAP and the weighted EQUUS-COMPASS without physiological variables is suitable for use by both veterinarians and horse owners.
Expert opinion by Isabeau Deckers
This study established the correlation between particular colic-like behavioural criteria and the prognosis of colics. Furthermore, the application of these criteria scales don’t require any veterinary instruments and is thereby achievable and recommended for every horse owner. Because of the prevalence and impact of colics, this could be a favourable contribution to the welfare of the horses. The university of Utrecht developed an app called: "EPWA". You can use this to detect pain in an early stage, by small changes in facial expression and body language of the horse. EPWA - Equine Pain and Welfare App
> From: Van Dierendonck, Vet. J. 216 (2016) 175-177. All rights reserved to Elsevier Ltd. Click here for the online summary.