Feline behavioral signs of pain documented

How do you or your clients know if a feline patient is in pain? A new study has documented the signs.

Academics and clinical practitioners from across the globe with specializations in internal medicine, anesthesiology, oncology, dentistry, behavior, dermatology, ophthalmology, and neurology have identified 25 behavioral signs that cats display which could indicate that they are suffering pain.

The research was published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE on Feb. 24.

The aim of the study was to collect and classify expert opinion on the possible behavioral signs in cats that denoted pain. These signs were classified as either "sufficient" (their presence indicated that the cat is pain) or "necessary" (the signs must be present to conclude that the cat is in pain) for pain assessment in cats.

By repeating a process of behavior analysis and selection, the researchers’ work revealed 25 key “sufficient” signs, such as an absence of grooming, hunched-up posture, avoiding bright areas, change in feeding behavior, and difficulty to jump, which all infer pain, but no "necessary" signs.

“Both owners and veterinarians are clearly able to recognize many behavioral changes in cats which relate to pain,” said Daniel S. Mills, PhD, Professor of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine at the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences in the United Kingdom and one of the study authors. “However, owners may not always recognize the clinical relevance of what they see.

“For example, they may view the changes as an inevitable part of natural aging and not report them…or at least not until the behaviors become quite severe. We hope that having an agreed list of more objective criteria, which relates to specific signs of pain, could improve the ability of both owners and veterinarians to recognize it.” 

Photo credit: © iStock/GooDween123

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