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How can Pain be Assessed? > Objective Assessment > Behaviour

Posture Gait Activity Facial Expression Vocalisation Mental State Evoked Behaviour Behaviour Patterns Analgesic Treatment

Postural Changes in Response to Pain

Normal postures

Normal lying postures shown by lambs and calves are described by Molony et al (1993a, 1995, 2002) and Robertson et al (1994) as ventral or sternal lying with both the front and hind legs tucked up and the head either up (V2) or down (V1).  Lateral lying is seen occasionally but usually only for short periods and mainly when the weather is warm.  Horses spend little time (less than 3% of the day) lying but do lie in both ventral and lateral postures.  Animals not in pain or ill normally look at or get up when approached.

Abnormal postures

Postures rarely adopted by 'normal' animals are defined here as abnormal. Different abnormal postures can be seen with pain of different types and from different sites. Some different postures adopted by lambs and calves with painful conditions are:-

  1. lying in a lateral posture (LL).
  2. lying with full extension of the hind limbs in a ventral (V4) posture.
  3. lying with only partial extension of the hind limbs (V3)
  4. normal V2 lying with trembling (Vtr). 
  5. dog-sitting trying to keep the affected area off the ground (Vg).
  6. standing/walking abnormally (AbS) i.e. with swaying, leaning on a fence / wall, repeated stamping, kicking and tail wagging, falling over, stretching, abnormal walking patterns e.g. sideways, backwards, in circles.
  7. 'statue' standing (SS) i.e. sustained standing still, frequently associated with other postures such as, trembling, stretching, a hunched back, a tucked in tail and tucked up abdomen;

Graphs show the changes in abnormal postures of calves and  lambs after rubber ring castration. 

Click on each icon to view a movie of examples of some of these postures seen after castration in piglets, lambs and calves. Other movie examples can be found under activities.


Note the similarity between the species in these responses to surgical / traumatic injury.

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                                            Revised: 20-10-08