Assessing Pain in Pets

Assessing pain in pets is challenging. Animals cannot communicate their discomfort and sometimes, they even want to hide their pain from us. This has led to an increased concern for accurate pain assessment. Recently, there has been a push to develop new tools to help veterinarians reduce the subjectivity in evaluating pain in animals. A recent article in DVM360 titled “Assessing pain in pets” discusses the importance of recognizing pain in pets, as well as various methods for assessing and managing it. One of the newer technologies mentioned in the article is PainTrace®, a device that picks up on direct biosignals on the skin. These biosignals are produced in the afferent and efferent pain pathways in response to noxious stimuli and this sensory information is depicted graphically.  

PainTrace is a non-invasive technology that can be used in conjunction with other pain assessment methods, such as visual analog scales, numerical rating scales, behavioral assessments, and multidimensional pain scales, to provide a more comprehensive evaluation of pain levels in pets. By objectively measuring pain, PainTrace can help take the guesswork out of pain assessment, allowing veterinarians to develop more tailored pain management plans for each animal.  

In addition to its usefulness in evaluating pain levels in pets, PainTrace can also help reduce the risk of over- or under-treating pain, which leads to better outcomes. The technology can be especially useful in cases where an animal’s behavior or body language may not provide enough information, such as in cases of chronic pain. As discussed in the article, chronic pain evaluations in pets often rely on pet owners’ reports of their animals’ pain. However, even for a trained observer, detecting the subtle signs of maladaptive pain can be challenging, resulting in potentially inaccurate pain assessments. Therefore, the PainTrace technology can help address this limitation by providing a more objective and accurate measure of pain, allowing for appropriate treatment and improved pain management in pets. 

Evaluating and managing pain is crucial to providing quality veterinary care. While traditional pain assessment methods are useful, new technologies such as PainTrace can help provide a more objective measure of pain and improve the accuracy of pain assessment. By using PainTrace in conjunction with other pain assessment methods, veterinarians can develop more tailored pain management plans for each pet, leading to better outcomes and a higher quality of life for our animal companions. 

Read the article “Assessing Pain in Pets” by Kristen Cooley, BA, CVT, VTS (Anesthesia & Analgesia), VCC, to learn more about evaluating pain.