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Measuring chronic pain in cats and dogs

Chronic pain refers to a pain condition that occurs over a long period (months) and can be considered maladaptive. It has been increasingly recognised that chronic pain is a condition that can affect companion animals, but there is a lack of reliable and accurate methods for detecting it in pets. This review article from the USA summarises the current state of knowledge surrounding the measurement of chronic pain in cats and dogs.

Animals cannot verbalise the magnitude of their pain, consequently, researchers must rely on direct and indirect indicators of pain to assess its severity. Direct indicators of pain can include changes in physical activity levels. Indirect indicators can include central sensitisation of the pain response; meaning that chronic pain can increase the pain response that an animal shows to other sources of pain, such as electrical stimulation. All measures of chronic pain should be scientifically validated to ensure reliability.

Sources of chronic pain in cats and dogs

Some common sources of chronic pain in cats and dogs include:

In conclusion, while some progress has been made in assessing chronic pain in cats and dogs, there is considerable interest in improving this aspect of veterinary science.

Lascelles BDX et al (2019) Measurement of chronic pain in companion animals: Discussions from the Pain in Animals Workshop (PAW) 2017. The Veterinary Journal 250:71-78.

Source: RSPCA Science Update 66 October 2019