Behavioral responses of cattle to pain and implications for diagnosis, management, and animal welfare

Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract. 2013 Mar;29(1):47-58. doi: 10.1016/j.cvfa.2012.11.007. Epub 2012 Dec 21.


Pain is a subjective experience in humans and livestock and can only be measured indirectly, posing challenges for veterinary practitioners in terms of diagnosis and treatment of bovine pain. In this review, attitudes of citizens, producers, and veterinarians are explored regarding pain and its associations with animal welfare and husbandry procedures. Behavior used to quantify pain in cattle is identified in terms of pain-specific behaviors and general behavioral responses that can be observed during painful procedures or convalescence. Finally, nociception and cognitive tests used for reporting pain in human patients are investigated for application to bovine patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry / methods
  • Animal Welfare*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Cattle Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cattle Diseases / drug therapy
  • Cattle* / physiology
  • Cattle* / psychology
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain / veterinary*
  • Pain Measurement / veterinary
  • Vocalization, Animal