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Bowmanville Veterinary Clinic

Pain Scale - Chronic and/or Acute

Pets feel pain in the same way and for many of the same reasons as humans. Infections, dental problems, arthritis, cancer, and surgical procedures can cause discomfort just as they would in us. Unfortunately, unlike humans, they are unable to speak to us about when and where they hurt. For this reason we have developed a system to help identify signals that could mean pain in your pet and put them on a scale in order to provide your pet with optimal relief and comfort.

If your pet appears to be showing any of these signs please let us know, and together we will decide how we can best relieve their discomfort. Please be aware pets can be very subtle about showing pain. A wagging tail or purring cat does not mean your pet is not uncomfortable.

Level 0 - No Pain

  • Eating normally

  • May have increased heart rate in the clinic due to stress

  • No abnormal behaviours

Level 1 - Mild Pain

  • May have increased heart rate in clinic due to stress

  • Still may have no abnormal behaviours

  • May just not be themselves but no specific signs

  • May have a change in attitude

  • May have a change in ability to jump, sit, or climb stairs

  • Possibly slightly tense

  • Possibly slightly anxious

  • Possibly more needy and attention seeking

  • Slight change in gait

Level 2 - Moderate Pain

  • Possible increased heart rate due to pain

  • Possible change in facial expression

  • Possibly abnormally quiet, less interactive, withdrawn from family

  • Sometimes hiding

  • Possible shaking/trembling

  • Possible change in eating/sleeping patterns

  • Can be limping but still weight bearing

  • Reluctance to be touched in painful area; protects area

  • Sometimes panting

  • Sometimes restless

  • Can lay down but not sleeping restfully

  • Possible inappropriate litter box habits in cats

Level 3 - Severe Pain

  • Sometimes crying/howling

  • Sometimes aggressive when not normally

  • Can be reluctant to be touched anywhere

  • Sometimes dilated pupils

  • Can be non weight bearing if limb affeted

  • Increased respiratory rate

  • Sometimes increased blood pressure

  • Sometimes increased temperature

  • Sometimes excessive panting

Level 4 - Extreme Pain

  • Can be extremely vocal; crying/howling

  • Non responsive to comforting

  • May be unaware of surroundings

  • Shocky; pale gums

  • Likely recumbent

Dental Pain

Pain associated with dental disease can be significant. However, because dental pain often comes on over long periods of time, your pet may not show the signs you would expect to indicate a high level of discomfort. Again, your pet feels pain the same way we do, and a tooth abscess or periodontal disease can be extremely uncomfortable. Below, we have listed the average pain scale associated with the different stages of dental disease:

Stage 1 Dental Disease - mild gingivitis and tartar buildup

Pain scale = 0 to 1 (no pain to mild pain)

Stage 2 Dental Disease - significant gingivitis and tartar buildup

Pain scale = 1 (mild pain)

Stage 3 Dental Disease - early stages of periodontal disease

Pain scale = 2 (moderate pain)

Stage 4 Dental Disease - significant periodontal disease or broken teeth or some resorptive lesions

Pain scale = 3 (severe pain)