Assessing pain is a complicated challenge, especially in cats. Pain has two main components: the sensory aspect (intensity, location and duration) and the affective aspect (emotional toll).
Because pain assessment is somewhat subjective, veterinarians are constantly trying to create tools that make this process more objective. For its validity, any pain measurement tool must take into account both characteristics: the sensory and the affective.
Signs of pain in cats
A British study was recently conducted to reach consensus on criteria when assessing pain in cats. A total of 91 signs, selected from the existing literature, were evaluated during four rounds of evaluation, by 19 experts in feline medicine. Some worked in private practice, others in veterinary schools1.
Ultimately, 25 signs were considered to be reliable and sensitive to indicate pain in cats, in a variety of different clinical conditions1:
Top 5 signs
- Decreased appetite
- Avoid bright areas.
- Closed eyes
Other signs include: lameness, difficulty jumping, abnormal gait, reluctance to move, reaction to touch, withdrawing / hiding, lack of grooming, less play, decreased general activity, less friction towards people, general mood, temperament , stooped posture, weight change, licking a particular region of the body, lower head posture, tightly closed eyelids, change in feeding behavior, straining to urinate, collapse of the tail
The top 5 signs are indicative of severe pain. Behavioral changes, such as irritability, tend to be seen with more pain in the long term. The other signs can be seen with less severe pain. All of these signs cover the sensory and emotional aspects of pain.
What to do if you see signs of pain in your cat
Cat owners should be aware of these signs. Some mistakenly attribute changes in behavior, such as lack of grooming or less play, as signs of aging; They can actually be signs of pain.
Remember, the presence of any of these 25 signs means pain. If you see any of these signs in your cat, see your vet right away. Also remember that the absence of a sign does not mean that your cat is not in pain.
These signs can help both veterinarians and cat keepers better assess the pain status of cats in their care.
While it can be fairly easy to recognize severe pain, it is much more difficult to detect low-grade pain. The above criteria are a great start. We hope that this research will generate more studies to help us assess mild pain in cats and ensure their well-being.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your vet; they are your best resource for ensuring the health and well-being of your pets.
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