Lapis ISSN 2398-2969

Pain: assessment and relief

Synonym(s): Pain scoring, Pain recognition

Contributor(s): Lesa Thompson, Lesa Longley, Maria Parga, Vicki Baldrey

Introduction

  • Over the past few years rabbits have quickly increased in importance as pets in the UK, currently being the third most commonly kept pet in this country.
  • General knowledge about rabbit medicine and surgery is therefore developing quickly, but there are still some basic areas that remain poorly studied and understood. Pain recognition and relief is one of them.
  • Pain is defined by the Committee on Taxonomy for the International Association for the Study of Pain as:
    • "An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage."
  • In view of the difficulties in pain recognition, an anthropomorphic view is often applied to rabbit analgesia, where analgesia is provided to an animal undergoing any procedure or pathology that would be expected to cause pain/distress in a human.
  • In a survey published in 1999 by Lascelles et al on the use of analgesics by British small animal veterinarians, some worrying results came to light. While analgesics were administered by 71% of surgeons to dogs and by 56% to cats undergoing laparotomy, only 22% would give small mammals peri-operative analgesia   Analgesia    Sedation  . Two factors were thought to be responsible for this:
    • Veterinarians and veterinary nurses were not familiar enough with species of small mammals and could not recognize signs of pain in them.
    • Dose regimes for analgesic drugs on small mammals and their possible side effects were not known.
  • Pain scoring systems for rabbits have been devise, however individual variation both in the rabbits and observers, and rabbits' propensity as a 'prey species' to mask signs of pain in the presence of an observer, makes this system of evaluation difficult. Remote observation, eg by video camera may aid assessment of pain.

Signs of pain

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Pain management

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Local anesthesia

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NSAIDs

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Opioids

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Delk K W, Carpenter J W, KuKanich B et al (2014) Pharmacokinetics of meloxicam administered orally to rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) for 29 days. Am J Vet Res 75 (2), 195-199 PubMed.
  • Barter L (2011) Rabbit analgesia. Vet Clin North Am Exot Anim Pract 14 (1), 93-104 PubMed.
  • Egger C M, Souza M J, Greenacre C B et al (2009) Effect of intravenous administration of tramadol hydrochloride on the minimum alveolar concentration of isoflurane in rabbits. Am J Vet Res 70 (8), 945-949 PubMed.
  • ACLAM Task Force Members, Kohns D F, Martin T E et al (2007) Public statement: guidelines for the assessment and management of pain in rodents and rabbits. J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci 46 (2), 97-108 PubMed.
  • Turner P V, Chen H C & Taylor W M (2006) Pharmacokinetics of meloxicam in rabbits after single and repeat oral dosing. Comp Med 56 (1), 63-67 PubMed.
  • Flecknell P A (2001) Analgesia of small mammals. Vet Clin North Am Exotic Anim Pract  (1), 47-56 PubMed.
  • Lascelles B D X, Capner C A & Waterman-Pearson A E (1999) Current British veterinary attitudes to perioperative analgesia for cats and small mammals. Vet Rec 145 (21), 601-604 PubMed.
  • Ramer J C, Paul-Murphy J & Benson K G (1999) Evaluating and stabilizing critically ill rabbits - Part II. Comp Contin Educ Pract Vet 21 (2), 116-125 VetMedResource.
  • Morton D B & Griffiths P H (1985) Guidelines on the recognition of pain, distress and discomfort in experimental animals and an hypothesis for assessment. Vet Rec 116 (16), 431-436 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Flecknell P (2016) Analgesia and Post-Operative Care. In: Laboratory Animal Anesthesia. 4th edn. Academic Press, Elsevier, London. pp142-194.
  • Flecknell P A & Thomas A A (2015) Comparative Anesthesia and Analgesia of Laboratory Animals. In: Lumb and Jones' Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia. Eds: Grimm K A, Lamont L A, Tranquilli W J, Greene S A & Robertson S A. Wiley Blackwell. pp 754-763.
  • Eatwell K (2014) Analgesia, Sedation and Anesthesia. In: Manual of Rabbit Medicine. Eds: Meredith A & Lord B. BSAVA. pp 138-159. 
  • Varga M (2014) Anesthesia and Analgesia. In: Textbook of Rabbit Medicine. 2nd edn. Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford. pp 178-202 
  • Loeser J D (2001) Bonica's Management of Pain. 3rd edn. Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins. Philadelphia.
  • Flecknell P A & Waterman-Pearson A (2000) Pain Management in Animals. W B Saunders, London.


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