Pain/Comfort Scoring

The things that make a difference to our pets lives may be innocuous. They may creep up on us so slowly that we may not notice the difference. This is where pain/comfort scoring comes in. 

Pain/Comfort scoring is assigning a value to different factors and activities to allow a make an objective measurement of how your dog is feeling. I like to modify the approach based on my individual clients and discuss what these mean with the owner to ensure it is relevant and meaningful. 

Some of the indicators that we may use include:

  • Walking up stairs - speed, confidence, any misses.
  • Limping - never, rarely, or only after getting up.
  • Ease of getting out of bed.
  • Desire to walk.
  • Appetite.
  • Desire to be petted (we might even have specific areas such as the back or head with certain conditions).
  • Desire to play with a favourite toy.
  • Ease of walking over cavelleti (one of my favourites).
  • How the dog sits (square, lazy, sloppy).
  • How often the dog skips while running

It’s also good to regularly sit back and ask if your dog has suddenly stopped enjoying or performing a task they previously did reliably. 

By giving each of the indicators a score (I like to score between one and five) and keeping a record of the scores over time. Days for acute conditions to weeks and years for chronic conditions. Sometimes it is a task that I ask owners to complete monthly or even six monthly. It is a wake up call to the entire team when things change so we can ensure that your pet is as happy and comfortable as possible.

I also strongly recommend this if you are DIYing your own rehab program, you should be writing down the exercises that you are performing each day and doing regular pain/comfort scoring. This will help you to avoid exercises that exacerbate your pets condition, know how much is too much, and keep on track. 

These scores can also be motivating! They allow measurable goals to be set and you can actually see your hard work showing through as the scores, and thus your dog’s condition and comfort, improves. 

Dr Jaime Jackson