A practical tool to help assess the depth of equine sedation has been developed. The facial sedation scale, called FaceSed, is based on the Horse Grimace Scale, which uses equine facial expressions to assesses pain.
Dr. Alice Rodrigues de Oliveira and other scientists at São Paulo State University in Brazil noted that there was only one objective measure of sedation in horses that didn’t require interpretation: head height above the ground. Other methods being used to assess depth and quality of sedation were subjective and based on the observer’s experience with sedated horses.
Though there are typical facial responses to sedation, no studies have measured their validity and reliability. The research team sought to create a scale that measured equine sedation based on facial expression. They adapted three of the facial measures used in the Horse Grimace Scale: ear position, eye opening, and relaxation of the lower and upper lips.
To test their pain scale, the scientists sedated seven horses both lightly and heavily, and photographed the horse’s face before sedation, at the height of sedation, in the middle, and at the end of sedation. Images were sent to four vets who were trained on the FaceSed scale.
There was agreement and consistency between all four vets. The scientists determined that the FaceSed scale is a reliable tool to assess and determine sedation in horses. They recommend further studies be completed in clinical settings and using inexperienced observers.
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