Validation of orthopedic postoperative pain assessment methods for dogs: a prospective, blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled study

PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e49480. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049480. Epub 2012 Nov 16.


In the context of translational research, there is growing interest in studying surgical orthopedic pain management approaches that are common to humans and dogs. The validity of postoperative pain assessment methods is uncertain with regards to responsiveness and the potential interference of analgesia. The hypothesis was that video analysis (as a reference), electrodermal activity, and two subjective pain scales (VAS and 4A-VET) would detect different levels of pain intensity in dogs after a standardized trochleoplasty procedure. In this prospective, blinded, randomized study, postoperative pain was assessed in 25 healthy dogs during a 48-hour time frame (T). Pain was managed with placebo (Group 1, n = 10), preemptive and multimodal analgesia (Group 2, n = 5), or preemptive analgesia consisting in oral tramadol (Group 3, n = 10). Changes over time among groups were analyzed using generalized estimating equations. Multivariate regression tested the significance of relationships between pain scales and video analysis. Video analysis identified that one orthopedic behavior, namely 'Walking with full weight bearing' of the operated leg, decreased more in Group 1 at T24 (indicative of pain), whereas three behaviors indicative of sedation decreased in Group 2 at T24 (all p<0.004). Electrodermal activity was higher in Group 1 than in Groups 2 and 3 until T1 (p<0.0003). The VAS was not responsive. 4A-VET showed divergent results as its orthopedic component (4A-VETleg) detected lower pain in Group 2 until T12 (p<0.0009), but its interactive component (4A-VETbeh) was increased in Group 2 from T12 to T48 (p<0.001). Concurrent validity established that 4A-VETleg scores the painful orthopedic condition accurately and that pain assessment through 4A-VETbeh and VAS was severely biased by the sedative side-effect of the analgesics. Finally, the video analysis offered a concise template for assessment in dogs with acute orthopedic pain. However, subjective pain quantification methods and electrodermal activity need further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Analgesia
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Dogs
  • Galvanic Skin Response
  • Male
  • Models, Animal
  • Orthopedics
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Pain, Postoperative / diagnosis*
  • Pain, Postoperative / therapy
  • Random Allocation
  • Reproducibility of Results

Grant support

This study was supported in part by a grant from Vétoquinol Laboratories, Lure, France (; an ongoing New Opportunities Fund grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (#9483) for the pain/function equipment (; a Discovery grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (#327158-2008) as operating fund for pain biomarkers ( The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.