Measuring pain in dogs and cats using structured behavioural observation

Vet J. 2018 Jun;236:72-79. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2018.04.013. Epub 2018 Apr 24.


The contemporary approach to pain measurement in people and animals seeks to measure the affective (emotional) component of the pain experience using structured questionnaires with formal scoring methodology. Chronic pain has wide-ranging impacts which affects the quality of life (QOL) of the individual, whether that is a person or an animal. Accordingly instruments to measure chronic pain are designed to measure its impact on QOL and are called health-related quality of life (HRQL) instruments. In veterinary science instruments to measure pain are based on behavioural observation by the veterinary surgeon/nurse in the case of acute pain and by the owner in the case of chronic pain. The development of HRQL instruments is an expanding field in veterinary science, not just for the measurement of pain, but for other chronic diseases, and it has a wide application in pharmaceutical research and clinical practice to improve patient care. This review highlights the challenges involved in creating such measures for dogs and cats, seeking to provide the reader with an understanding of their development process. It then provides an overview of the current status with regard to acute and chronic pain measurement.

Keywords: Cat; Dog; Health-related quality of life; Measurement; Pain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior Observation Techniques*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Cats / physiology*
  • Dog Diseases
  • Dogs / physiology*
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Pain Measurement / veterinary*
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires