Recognition of pain in horses and other animals is important from a medical, ethical and welfare point of view. In Sweden, a team of scientists led by Pia Haubro Andersen, Professor of Large Animal Surgery at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences at Uppsala, is working on a large range of projects with a number of international collaborators in Europe as well as the US.
The most promising and sensitive indicators for equine pain are subtle changes in facial expressions, the 'pain face,' an integral part of the behavioral Equine Pain Scale. New window.
They have developed and evaluated systematic methods to identify varying levels of equine pain. One of the most promising and sensitive indicators for equine pain are subtle changes in facial expressions, the “pain face,” an integral part of the behavioral Equine Pain Scale (EPS) which they have developed.
The pain scale is based on changes in the horse's facial features, facial muscle movements, dilation of nostrils and ear positions. Recent research has shown that horses change their facial expression during pain, and show the so called "painface."
Having a validated, well-researched pain scale as an assessment tool would be very helpful for horse owners, veterinarians, and equine caretakers who deal with sick and injured equines.
It is hoped that additional research will validate research findings and contribute to an accurate assessment tool since ensuring that an animal in pain, whether from colic or surgery, receives the correct analgesic treatment is of great importance to horse owners, veterinarians and equine care takers.
Currently research projects range from developing a fully automated machine learning system for recognition of pain in horses to developing new algorithms to detect low grade lameness in walk as well as investigating the possible connection between asymmetry and orthopedic pain.