A recent survey reported that 92 percent of British veterinarians have dealt with horses that are fearful of injections; nearly half say they encountered needle-shy horses multiple times a week. Horses can become dangerous to vets and handlers as they try to avoid a needle stick.
Injections and blood draws are part of routine health care for horses, making the avoidance of needles nearly impossible. Just one uncomfortable injection can cause horses to become averse to needles. This often escalates the handling techniques used to try to restrain the horse for injections, causing conditioned fear that may then be applied to other health-care procedures.
Drs. Catherine Torcivia and Sue McDonnell, of the New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, wanted to see if reducing the discomfort of injections could prepare the horse for a more-positive veterinary experience.
The duo investigated the use of lidocaine, a topical anesthetic, to reduce discomfort during an intramuscular injection. Lidocaine has been shown to work in other species.
The researchers created a study which administered two intramuscular injections to 78 ponies. The ponies were broken into three groups: one group had a 5 percent lidocaine solution applied to the injection area two minutes before the needle stick; the second group had a 10 percent lidocaine solution applied two minutes before the injection; and the third group had no lidocaine applied.
The scientists found that behavior reactions to injections were lower in the ponies that received the lidocaine treatment. The difference in the lidocaine solutions did not provide a significantly different response. Less than 15 percent of the lidocaine-treated ponies had a slight flinch reaction, though half (55 percent) of the control group ponies had more than a slight flinch reaction.
The team concluded that application of a topical anesthetic can effectively reduce the behavior reaction of horses to intramuscular injections. They recommend that a topical anesthetic be used routinely when horses receive an intramuscular injection to improve animal welfare and staff safety. Small needle gauge and smaller needle length were also preferable for IM injection comfort.
Read the study here.
Read more at HorseTalk.
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