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AAHA In-Home Pain Assessment for Dogs

Both humans and dogs feel pain, but the way each experience pain can differ. This means no human or dog experiences pain the same way. Assessing pain in dogs can be very difficult, even for veterinary professionals.

  • Often, dogs try to hide their pain as a survival mechanism.
  • When dogs begin to show their discomfort, this is often when a human feeling the same level of pain would seek medical attention!
  • Pain and discomfort may not always be displayed as you might expect, such as with crying or limping, but can show up with a subtle or significant change in a dog’s behavior or interaction with their environment, including you.

There are multiple kinds of pain that fit under two broad classifications known as acute (adaptive) pain or chronic (maladaptive) pain.

Because pain can show up in various ways, pain researchers have come up with multiple charts, questionnaires, devices, etc. to assess pain in dogs. Here we have combined some of those tools to assess the comfort level of your dog after a surgery or injury (acute pain), or as your dog ages and begins to experience age-related changes such as osteoarthritis (chronic pain).

How to use this form: Using the scoring system below, write down how you think your dog scores for each description. In addition, use the visual aids to categorize your dog’s overall demeanor, being aware that every dog is different and that these illustrations specifically refer to how dogs may look when they are in pain (for example, it may be perfectly normal for your dog to look like the image on the right when he/she is sleeping). If your dog has scores of 2 or above (even on only one description), it is time to call your veterinarian. Do not give any medication, even over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, without consulting your veterinarian first.

Using the AAHA scoring system below, please fill out the form on how you think your dog scores for each description.

  • 0 – Disagree
  • 1 – Unsure
  • 2 – Somewhat Agree
  • 3 – Agree
  • 4 – Strongly Agree