If you have been to the doctor or emergency room recently for any aches, pains or ailments of your own, you know that a health professional will likely ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 0-10 or based on an emoji-like facial expression scale. I can be a little too detail oriented at times myself and I personally always struggle with how the practitioner understands the nuance of, for example, a 5 versus a 6, but in my mind, if I tell you its a 5 or above you really need to be actively doing something to help me…yes, ok, I am a wimp with pain in addition to being a little too detail oriented at times.
Well, veterinarians now have a way to apply that same type of pain scale from human healthcare to our fury friends. Colorado State University has developed a Canine Acute Pain scale (posted below and there is also a Feline version), to help categorize and standardize pain assessment. Those of us with pities, and other stoic breeds, are frequently amazed at how well our dogs can hide their pain levels. While heroic, it does not allow us to be as helpful to them as we could be to control their pain. We don't want our dogs to suffer needlessly!
As an example, my personal dog Petey, had gone through cancer surgery and was having a reaction to the NSAIDS he was given and physically appeared close to death, but was still giving us kisses, wagging his tail with hardly any look of distress in his eyes. In another example, our Luke had run a lure course and almost tore his dewclaw off his leg and cracked his nail way down low, but that did not stop him, he kept going as if nothing even happened, head high, tail wagging and talking away about how much fun he was having (those of you who have met Luke will understand the significance of his talking!). If I break a fingernail down into the quick, I want to cry….ok, so there is the “wimpiness" coming out in me again, at least by my dogs' standards!
Even though the Canine Acute Pain Scale is a veterinarian protocol, it is valuable to owners to help us assess what might be happening with our dog and be able to provide our vets with more quantifiable information than “I don’t think he feels good,” or “he didn’t eat his food.” Take a look at the scale, be familiar with what to monitor and watch for, then save it for a time when your dog may be acting differently so you are able to help him or her get pain relief.
The Canine and Feline pain scales are also available at www.veterinarypracticenews.com