Equis ISSN 2398-2977

Behavior: pain assessment

Synonym(s): Pain-related behavior

Contributor(s): Jill Price, Natalie Waran

Introduction

  • Assessment of animal pain is highly species-specific and is of necessity a value judgment, relying on interpretation of behavioral and physiological indices to provide indirect evidence of pain. Accurate assessment of pain in animals is complicated further because there are many different types of pain response to injury.
  • Four key types of behavioral response to pain have been identified:
    • Those that induce behavioral modification through learning, thus enabling the animal to avoid recurrence of the experience.
    • Reflex responses (sometimes spinal responses) which protect part or the entire animal.
    • Those that minimize pain and assist healing, such as lying still.
    • Those that are designed to elicit help or prevent another animal from inflicting more pain, such as vocalization or active withdrawal.
  • Present evidence suggests that pain management in companion animal species, including horses, is sub-optimal, and that poor identification of pain behavior is a major cause of inadequate pain management.

How do we assess pain?

  • There is no gold-standard indicator of the presence and severity of pain.
  • Systems for evaluation of clinical and experimental pain typically measure (quantitatively or qualitatively) the following indicators:
    • Physiological and humoral indicators.
    • Changes in thermal and mechanical (pressure) thresholds.
    • Behavioral signs.

Use of physiological indices in the assessment of pain in horses

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Measurement of 'pain thresholds'

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Behavioral signs

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Pain assessment

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Summary

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers
  • Recent references fromPubMed.
  • Robertson S (2006)The importance of assessing pain in horses and donkeys. Equine Vet J38(1), 5-6PubMed.
  • Lerche P (2009)Assessment and treatment of pain in horses. Equine Vet Educ21(1), 44-45.
  • Love E J (2009)Assessment and management of pain in horses. Equine Vet Educ21(1), 46-48.
  • Molony V, Kent J E & McKendrick I J (2002)Validation of a method for assessment of an acute pain in lambs.  Applied Anim Behaviour Sci76, 215-238.
  • Holton L, Reid J, Scott E M, Pawson P & Nolan A M (2001)Development of a behaviour-based scale  to measure acute pain in dogs. Vet Rec148, 523-530PubMed.
  • Molony V & Kent J E (1997)Assessment of acute and chronic pain in farm animals using behavioural and physiological measurements. J Anim Sci75, 266-272.
  • Raekallio M, Taylor P M & Bennet R C (1997a)Preliminary investigations of pain and analgesia assessment in horses given phenylbutazone or placebo after arthroscopic surgery. Vet Surg26, 150- 155.
  • Raekallio M, Taylor P M & Blomfield M (1997b)A comparison of methods for evaluation of pain and distress after orthopaedic surgery in horses. J Vet Anaesthesia24, 17-20.
  • Hamm D, Turchi P & Jochle W (1995)Pain thresholds' induced by electrical, thermal or mechanical stimulation following analgesic administrationVet Rec132, 324-326.
  • Schatzmann U, Weishaupt M A & Straub R (1994)Pain models in the horse: quantification of lameness by accelerometric methods. J VetAnaesthesia21, 42.
  • Robertson S A, Steele C J & Chen C L (1990)Metabolic and hormonal changes associated with arthroscopic surgery in the horse.  Equine Vet J22, 313-316.
  • Kamerling S, Wood T, DeQuick D, Weckman T J, Tai C, Blake J W & Tobin T (1989)Narcotic analgesics, their detection and pain measurement in the horse: A review.  Equine Vet J21, 4-12.
  • Lowe J E & Hilfiger J (1986)Analgesic and sedative effects of detomidine compared to xylazine in a colic model using IV and IM routes of administration. Acta Vet - Scanda Suppl82, 85.
  • Sanford J, Ewbank R, Molony V, Tavernor W D & Uvarov O (1986)Guidelines for the recognition and assessment of pain in animals. Vet Rec118, 334-338.

Other sources of information

  • Dobromylski P (2000)Pain assessment.In: Pain Management in Animals.Eds: P A Flecknell & A E Waterman-Pearson. W B Saunders, London. pp 52-77.


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