Minimizing Misery: Topical Anesthetic Keeps Horses More Comfortable During Intramuscular Injections – Horse Racing News


A recent survey reported that 92% of UK vets have dealt with horses fearful of injections; nearly half say they have encountered needle-fearing horses several times a week. Horses can become dangerous to veterinarians and handlers when trying to avoid a needle stick.

Injections and blood draws are part of routine horse health care, making it almost impossible to avoid needles. A single uncomfortable injection can make horses reluctant to needles. This often intensifies the manipulation techniques used to attempt to restrain the horse for injections, inducing conditioned fear which can 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 that gave two intramuscular injections to 78 ponies. The ponies were divided into three groups: one group received a 5% lidocaine solution applied to the injection site two minutes before the needle prick; the second group received a 10% lidocaine solution applied two minutes before the injection; and the third group had no lidocaine applied.

Scientists found that behavioral responses to injections were lower in ponies given the lidocaine treatment. The difference in lidocaine solutions did not provide a significantly different response. Less than 15% of the lidocaine-treated ponies had a slight startle reaction, although half (55%) of the control group ponies had more than a slight startle reaction.

The team concluded that applying a topical anesthetic can effectively reduce horses’ behavioral response to intramuscular injections. They recommend that a topical anesthetic be used routinely when horses are given an intramuscular injection to improve animal welfare and staff safety. Small needle gauge and shorter needle length were also preferred for comfort of IM injection.

Read the study here.

Read more on Let’s talk about the horse.

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