How does man’s best friend respond to pain?



Previous research suggested that personality in horses might relate the expression of pain, in a similar way to humans. Recent research carried out by Dr Carrie Ijichi and James Lush looked at dogs recovering from routine castration in applied veterinary settings. They measured arousal using infrared thermography of core temperature and pain behaviour and personality. Owners also rated how tolerant they thought their dog was to pain, as horse owners were found really adept at understanding this in their horses. Pain behaviour didn’t correlate with emotional arousal, meaning pain behaviour might not be a good indicator of how the animal feels, which supports the earlier research in horses. Interestingly, more highly extrovert subjects had significantly higher pain scores, as is also seen in horses and human subjects. There was no relationship between extroversion and temperature before surgery, but after surgery a possible relationship was noted. Extravert dogs appear to have an increase in core temperature, but introvert dogs show a decrease. More extrovert subjects also had hotter right eyes, compared to left, which may indicate a more emotional response. Surprisingly, Neuroticism didn’t correlate to any measures which contrasts with human and horse research. It’s not clear why this would be but it could be due to difference in prey and predator species or the method of measuring personality. Finally, owners were not accurate in their predictions of their dog’s tolerance to pain. This is very surprising considering dogs live within the home and spend more time interacting with their owners. Overall, this research suggests we may need to rethink how we judge the experience of pain and the role individual differences play.

The full article can be found here.