To treat pain, we need to know how to recognize and assess it.
The Feline Grimace Scale, a new tool that uses changes in facial expressions to assess pain, has been published in the open-access journal Scientific Reports by Nature Publishing. The tool was developed and validated at the laboratory of Dr Paulo Steagall, in collaboration with researchers at the Université de Montréal. Dr Steagall is an Associate Professor of Veterinary Anesthesia and Pain Management at the Université de Montréal, Co-Chair of the WSAVA Therapeutic Guidelines Group and a member of the WSAVA Global Pain Council and Global Dental Guidelines Committee.
The Feline Grimace Scale monitors five action units:
- ear position
- orbital tightening
- muzzle tension
- whiskers position
- head position
Each action unit is scored by the veterinarian from 0 to 2, depending on whether it is present, partially present or present. Taken overall, the scores indicate whether or not the cat is in pain and whether the administration of analgesics is required.
Dr Steagall says: “Pain-induced behavioral changes are subtle and unique in cats and can be influenced by stress, fear and anxiety. The Feline Grimace Scale is a step forward in raising standards of feline pain management. It is part of Dr Marina Evangelista's PhD program and we were lucky to be supported by Zoetis during its development. We have a very exciting plan to disseminate the results and to continue our research in this area.”
A training manual is available as a download to help veterinarians use the tool.