Objective: To identify variables and evaluate methods for assessing chronic pain in dogs.
Design: Prospective study.
Animals: 41 dogs with canine hip dysplasia (CHD), and 24 apparently healthy dogs with no history of pain.
Procedure: 2 veterinarians evaluated the dogs' locomotion and signs of pain. Owners of dogs with CHD and control dogs answered a questionnaire regarding their dogs' demeanor, behavior, and locomotion (descriptive scales) and assessed pain and locomotion (visual analog scales). Plasma concentrations of several stress-related hormones were determined, and 13 radiologic variables were assessed in affected hip joints.
Results: For many of the questions, answers provided by owners of dogs with CHD differed significantly from those of owners of control dogs. Stress hormone concentrations differed significantly between dogs with CHD and controls, but individual variation was too great for them to be of value in pain assessment. None of the radiologic variables examined correlated well with owner or veterinarian pain scores.
Conclusions and clinical relevance: Chronic pain could be assessed in dogs with CHD through completion of the study questionnaire by a person familiar with the pet (eg, owner) after receiving appropriate education in its use. Eleven variables were identified as being potentially useful in assessment of chronic pain in dogs.