Assessing Pain

Assessing Pain

Pain may be difficult to assess at lower levels. When evaluating quality of life, we must be able to recognize the subtle changes of behavior that might indicate pain so that relief with medications can be offered to our pets. The following information is used by the veterinary medical field to score the level of pain an animal might be experiencing.

Score Description Animal Behavior and Signs
0 No Pain Bright. Responsive. Self grooming, Normal mobility, heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure. Dream sleep. Acts comfortable. Yawns. Eats and drinks normally.
1 Mild Discomfort Eats and drinks. Guards an area of discomfort. May limp or favor a painful limb. Difficulty finding a comforable position. Resists palpation. Cats still purr and dogs still wag their tail.
2 Pain Resists touch to the affected area. May lick or chew at the painful location. May be very restless or not want to move much. Trembling can occur. Increased heart rate, shallow quick respirations, and increased blood pressure. Can whimper or cry our in pain. Sometimes have dialated pupils.
3 Moderate Pain Anxious or depressed. Trembling. Head down. Inappetent. May cry or bite if approached. Does not sleep much. Very restless. Whines or cries without provocation. Sleeps but does not dream. Cats may still purr and dogs may still tail wag.
4 Severe Pain Showing exaggerated signs of moderate pain, but with more vocalizing. Sometimes screaming. More dpressed and often unaware of surroundings. May thrash around with times of no movement. Pupils dialated. Increased heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure.

VerySevere Pain

As above, however can also be comatose as the body shuts down from the degree pain.

Adopted from Crow, DT. Handbook of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Protocols and Procedures.