Defining and assessing animal pain

Lynne U. Sneddon*, Robert W. Elwood, Shelley A. Adamo, Matthew C. Leach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The detection and assessment of pain in animals is crucial to improving their welfare in a variety of contexts in which humans are ethically or legally bound to do so. Thus clear standards to judge whether pain is likely to occur in any animal species is vital to inform whether to alleviate pain or to drive the refinement of procedures to reduce invasiveness, thereby minimizing pain. We define two key concepts that can be used to evaluate the potential for pain in both invertebrate and vertebrate taxa. First, responses to noxious, potentially painful events should affect neurobiology, physiology and behaviour in a different manner to innocuous stimuli and subsequent behaviour should be modified including avoidance learning and protective responses. Second, animals should show a change in motivational state after experiencing a painful event such that future behavioural decision making is altered and can be measured as a change in conditioned place preference, self-administration of analgesia, paying a cost to access analgesia or avoidance of painful stimuli and reduced performance in concurrent events. The extent to which vertebrate and selected invertebrate groups fulfil these criteria is discussed in light of the empirical evidence and where there are gaps in our knowledge we propose future studies are vital to improve our assessment of pain. This review highlights arguments regarding animal pain and defines criteria that demonstrate, beyond a reasonable doubt, whether animals of a given species experience pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-212
Number of pages12
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Volume97
Early online date10 Oct 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014

Keywords

  • Animal welfare
  • Invertebrates
  • Nociception
  • Pain
  • Vertebrates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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