The challenge of measuring pain in veterinary medicine is compounded by the lack of fully validated, reliable methods to measure and assess pain in nonverbal patients. In human medicine, there are numerous, validated pain assessment tools (PATs) for assessing various, specific types of pain. The advances in human medicine pain management and numerous validated pain scales should serve as incentives and templates to facilitate similar advances in the development of validated PATs for use in dogs (and other species). The limited number of canine PATs constrains our ability to adequately and reliably assess pain. Improving the ability to quantify osteoarthritis and postoperative pain in dogs would enhance the development of analgesics for animals, advance the management of animal pain, facilitate the use of animal pain models in preclinical trials for human analgesics, and provide insight into the quantification of pain responses in humans who lack the ability to adequately communicate. This review describes the need for practical, valid, and reliable PATs for use in veterinary patients and discusses some currently available PATs commonly used to evaluate acute and chronic pain in dogs.
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