Today’s Veterinary Business Staff
Dog breeds differ in pain sensitivity but not necessarily in the way that veterinarians tend to believe, according to North Carolina State University researchers.
“Veterinarians have a fairly strong consensus in their ratings of pain sensitivity in dogs of different breeds,” said Margaret Gruen, DVM, an associate professor of behavioral medicine and the study’s co-author. “We wanted to know if different breeds had different sensitivity thresholds, if these differences were consistent with what veterinarians believed, or if these views are the result of a dog’s emotional reactivity and behavior while interacting with a veterinarian.”
The researchers evaluated 149 dogs from breeds subjectively rated as:
- High pain sensitivity: Chihuahuas, German shepherds, Maltese, Siberian huskies
- Average pain sensitivity: Border collies, Boston terriers, Jack Russell terriers
- Low pain sensitivity: Golden retrievers, pit bulls, Labrador retrievers
Dog owners were asked to complete the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire to determine whether the fear their dogs typically exhibited was stranger-directed, nonsocial, dog-directed or touch-related.
Each dog’s pain sensitivity threshold was measured using quantitative sensory testing, which involved applying pressure with a pointed, blunt tool and a thermal probe to the back of the dog’s paw. The stimulus was removed as soon as the dog moved its paw. Each test was repeated five times.
The study found that dog breeds differed in their pain sensitivity thresholds and emotional reactivity. However, the differences did not always correlate with veterinary breed ratings, which suggests a dog’s emotional reactivity behavior might influence a veterinarian’s pain sensitivity rating.
The researchers also conducted two emotional reactivity tests to mimic stressful aspects of a veterinary visit, including:
- Novel object task: Using an interactive plush monkey that made noise and moved.
- Disgruntled stranger test: A person unknown to the dog and wearing a hooded sweatshirt who spoke loudly on a phone, removed the hood and greeted the dog.
“These findings show that we need to think about not just pain, but also a dog’s anxiety in the veterinary setting,” Dr. Gruen said. “And this information can help explain why veterinarians may think about certain breeds’ sensitivity the way they do.”