This article looks at the existing evidence-base by which veterinary surgeons can make welfare-focused treatment choices. Narrative and structured reviews were conducted. Papers were categorised under headings based on (1) themes in the UK Animal Welfare Act (AWA 2006) - behaviour, environment, nutrition, company and health; (2) iatrogenic harm induced by treatment; (3) decision-making methods, and (4) the subjects' context (e.g. home versus laboratory). There is more information available about 'overt' problems (e.g. acute disease), than 'covert' issues (e.g. chronic pain, lack of company and obesity). Forty of 109 papers covered pain, suffering, injury and disease, compared to 69 across four other themes in the AWA. Twelve papers were identified as focusing on welfare assessment and clinical decision-making. Veterinary surgeons should consider each of the five welfare themes described in the AWA in both veterinary practice and in determining veterinary research priorities.
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