Attitudes to pain in animals have changed dramatically over the past two decades, with marked advances in its treatment. However, while the importance of measuring animal pain in a valid and reliable manner has been acknowledged for some time, veterinary scientists have been slow to recognise the important contribution of the psychometric approach to the construction of measurement instruments. Well established in human medicine, psychometric methods, which ensure that the end product is valid, reliable and, where required, responsive to clinical change, are the ‘gold standard’ in instrument design. In addition to discussing the particular challenges veterinary scientists face when designing instruments to measure pain in animals, this article describes the psychometric approach and, using the dog as an example, demonstrates how this approach can be used to produce scientifically robust pain scales for non-human species.
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