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Do Animals Feel Pain? Yes, But To Treat It, We Need To Be Able To Measure It

Here’s a really interesting article on pain in animals. The title is a little misleading because, of course animals feel pain. The point here is that in order to treat animal pain and make their lives better, we have to be able to identify it and measure it. In short, I guess, we have to be able to communicate with animals:

These findings and much other work are being incorporated into tools to evaluate animal pain, because in the words of Lord Kelvin, the great Glaswegian scientist behind the Kelvin temperature scale, said: “When you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in number … you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science, whatever the matter may be”.

So in order to treat and manage pain effectively we must measure it.

And there is a huge demand for these tools. The Glasgow Composite Pain Scale, a simple tool to measure acute pain in dogs and first published in 2007, has been translated into six languages. It is used in veterinary practices to measure pain to treat it effectively. It has also been used to evaluate the effectiveness of new analgesic drugs that are being developed by animal health companies. Tools to measure the impact of chronic pain, such as osteoarthritis, on the quality of life of dogs are now available and are a significant advance in managing chronic conditions.

There is now a global effort to raise awareness of pain in animals. Recently the World Small Animal Veterinary Association launched the Global Pain Council and published a treatise for vets and animal keepers worldwide to promote pain recognition, measurement and treatment. Dogs may be man’s best friend, but for all those who work with, care for and enjoy the company of animals, understanding how their pain feels is essential to improving the quality of their lives.

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