Do Sedatives Affect Lameness Exam Outcomes?

Lameness exams on high-energy horses can be difficult to complete, especially if they involve joint or nerve blocks. Occasionally overly exuberant horses must be sedated for the exam to be performed to keep both horse, handler and vet safe. Concerns have been raised that sedating the horse may mask a horse’s pain response, and potentially compromise the results of the joint or nerve block and the exam.

A group of Brazilian veterinarians tested the effects of xylazine and xylazine used in conjunction with butorphanol on induced hind-end lameness. Drs. Antônio Alcemar Beck Júnior, Flávio Desessards De La Côrte, Karin Erica Brass, Stéfano Leite Dau, Gabriele Biavaschi Silva and Marina de Aguiar Camillo compared the results of the sedated horses to the results of a control group of horses that did not receive sedation.

The researchers used 16 horses and placed metal clamps around their hoof wall with small screws. The screws were tightened to induce lameness until the horses became a Grade 3 or 4 (out of 5) on the AAEP lameness scale. This was done immediately before the administration of sedation.

Each horse received all three treatments: no sedation, xylazine alone or a combination of xylazine and butorphanol. The scientists concluded that xylazine used alone or in conjunction with butorphanol (at the recommended doses) can be used as chemical restraint without masking lameness intensity. They note that additional research must be done to determine how detomidine and romifidine might interact with butorphanol during hindlimb lameness evaluations.

Read more at EquiManagement.

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