What is pain?
How is pain produced?
How can pain be assessed?
How is pain relieved?
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Table of contents
CD Purchase

Facial Expression
Mental State
Evoked Behaviour
Behaviour Patterns
Analgesic Treatment

How can Pain be Assessed?

Principles of Assessment Objective Assessment Behaviour Subjective Assessment Systematic Assessment


Types of pain response

Animals may adopt one or more of the following strategies in their behavioural response to pain:

  • Responses which lead to changes in the animalís behaviour and which enable the animal to reduce or avoid recurrence of the pain experience. These responses involve emotional experiences and learning, for which high-level central nervous functions are required.

  • Responses, often automatic, which protect parts or the whole of the animal. These reflex responses and reactions include withdrawal from the source of the stimulus, removal of the stimulus or attempts to achieve these results. Withdrawal reflexes may be regarded as minimal responses and they may be extended to the whole animal running away, alternatively the animal may try to remove or reduce the noxious stimulus by licking, biting or attacking its source.

  • Responses which minimise pain and assist healing, the animal may reduce activity by lying down, standing very still or by adopting some other characteristic posture. To enable this the animal may move away or hide.

  • Responses, which are designed to elicit help or to stop another animal (including man) from inflicting more pain e.g. communication by vocalisation, posture or by other means such as smell. Under evolutionary pressures, where predators could detect and use such responses to pick out their prey, it might be expected that such responses would be suppressed whereas in young, maternally dependent, animals and at least some social species such responses may be well developed to elicit help from the mother or fellow members of the social group.

  • Failure to carry out well established behavioural responses due to domination of ongoing experience by the pain. This includes failure of social interactions, unresponsiveness to commands and inattention.

Changes in specific behaviour can be classified under the following headings:

  1. Posture
  2. Gait
  3. Activity
  4. Facial expression
  5. Vocalisation
  6. Mental state
  7. Evoked behaviour
  8. Behaviour patterns
  9. Response to analgesic treatment

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                                            Revised: 20-10-08