How to Quantify Pain in Animals

October 28, 2016
American Veterinarian Editorial Staff

Mark Stephenson, DVM, chief veterinarian at Voyce PRO, explains how to quantify pain in animals.

Mark Stephenson, DVM, chief veterinarian at Voyce PRO, explains how to quantify pain in animals.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)

“Pain has always been really subjective. We’ve quantified pain using pain score scales. They are usually either 1 to 10, 0 to 10, 0 to 4 or 5. These are based mainly on subjectivity [such as] posture [and] behaviors, and reaction to palpation. That’s currently how we typically quantify pain. I think the best way to look at pain is to triangulate a lot of information together to come up with an understanding of pain.

The downfalls of pain scores are that they are subjective. If you do a pain score with one veterinarian on a particular dog and another veterinarian does the same scoring, you may get two different values.

I would triangulate things [such as] heart rate, respiratory rate, and the pain score activities [such as] visual observation, and palpation, as well as all of the subjective information that comes from the owner. You want to ask a lot of questions about how they are doing at home.”