Open Access Open Badges Research article

Nociceptive thermal threshold testing in horses – effect of neuroleptic sedation and neuroleptanalgesia at different stimulation sites

Christin Poller1*, Klaus Hopster1, Karl Rohn2 and Sabine BR Kästner3

Author Affiliations

1 Clinic for Horses, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover Foundation, Hannover, Germany

2 Department of Biometry, Epidemiology and Information Processing, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover Foundation, Hannover, Germany

3 Clinic for Small Animals, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover Foundation, Hannover, Germany

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BMC Veterinary Research 2013, 9:135  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-135

Published: 9 July 2013



Aim of the study was to compare the effect of neuroleptic sedation with acepromazine and neuroleptanalgesia with acepromazine and buprenorphine on thermal thresholds (TT) obtained at the nostrils and at the withers. The study was carried out as a randomized, blinded, controlled trial with cross-over design. Thermal thresholds were determined by incremental contact heat applied to the skin above the nostril (N) or the withers (W). Eleven horses were treated with saline (S), acepromazine (0.05 mg/kg) (ACE) or acepromazine and buprenorphine (0.0075 mg/kg) (AB) intravenously (IV). Single stimulations were performed 15 minutes prior and 15, 45, 75, 105, 165, 225, 285, 405 and 525 minutes after treatment. Sedation score, gastrointestinal auscultation score and occurrence of skin lesions were recorded. Data were analysed with analysis of variance for repeated measurements.


There were no significant differences in TT between N and W with all treatments. The TT remained constant after S and there was no difference in TT between S and ACE. After AB there was a significant increase above baseline in TT until 405 minutes after treatment. Restlessness occurred 30–90 minutes after AB in 7 horses. All horses had reduced to absent borborygmi after AB administration for 165 to 495 minutes.


Thermal stimulation at both described body areas gives comparable results in the assessment of cutaneous anti-nociception in horses. There is no differential influence of neuroleptic sedation or neuroleptanalgesia on TTs obtained at N or W. Buprenorphine combined with acepromazine has a long lasting anti-nociceptive effect associated with the typical opioid induced side effects in horses.

Horse; Nociception; Contact heat; Buprenorphine; Different body sites