Policy: Pain and its alleviation

Policy type: Policy
Reference: 3f
Status: Current
Date ratified: February 2019


The NZVA considers that pain has a negative impact on animal welfare and should be relieved whenever possible. Provision of appropriate, timely and effective analgesia should be standard practice. An animal which is suffering, or is likely to suffer, unmanageable pain in the medium to long term should be euthanased.


The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as follows: "Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage".

Acute pain results from a traumatic, surgical, or disease process that is abrupt in onset and relatively short in duration. The pain generally does not outlast the healing process; it can generally be alleviated by analgesics.

Chronic pain results from long-standing physical disorders or emotional distress; it is usually slow in onset and has a long duration. Chronic pain is often more difficult to treat than acute pain and may require extensive diagnostic investigation and multiple therapeutic approaches.

The Veterinary Council’s Code of Professional Conduct states that “treatments or procedures must…only be performed with appropriate pain management”, with the following explanatory notes:

All surgical and some non-surgical procedures involving tissue damage can be expected to be painful. Analgesia must be included in the planning for all potentially painful procedures. An analgesia plan must be tailored for each patient and type of procedure, and be continued for an appropriate period after the procedure. Being able to assess pain is a crucial part of pain management. Veterinarians are expected to have a sound knowledge of the physiology of pain and pharmacology of pain control substances”.

References and resources

Flecknell P, Waterman-Pearson A. Pain Management in animals. W.B. Saunders, 2000

Veterinary Council of New Zealand Code of Professional Conduct

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