Identifying pain behavior alterations in donkeys is a difficult task for veterinarians, keepers, and guardians. Donkeys do not clearly express pain and little attention is paid to this animal species, which is erroneously treated as ‘a small horse’.
To ensure the animal welfare of donkeys, a scale was developed in partnership between the Federal Rural University of the Semi-Árido (UFERSA) and Unesp-Botucatu to ensure a reliable, effective, and valid method for recognizing pain and enabling the proper diagnosis and treatment of pain in donkeys.
Access the topics below to learn about and use the scale.
UFERSA-Unesp-Botucatu Composite Scale to assess pain in donkeys
(Donkey Pain Scale – DOPS)
The DOPS presents six characteristics:
1) Head position
2) Head direction
3) Ear position
4) Lift pelvic limb
5) Response to opening the stall door
6) Response to palpation of the affected area
Each characteristic is scored from 0 (normal or no pain) to 2 (greatest possible pain), except elevating the pelvic limb which is scored up to 1.
UFERSA-Unesp-Botucatu Composite Scale to assess pain in donkeys (Donkey Pain Scale -DOPS) (Oliveira et al 2021)
1. Head position
Above the withers or eating
At the height of the withers
Below the withers but without eating
2. Head direction
Straight head or eating
Turned to environmental stimuli and not to body parts
Looking at the affected area
3. Ear position
Forward facing predominantly
Lateral facing predominantly
Backward facing predominantly, rigidly
4. Lift pelvic limb
The animal does not lift one of the pelvic limbs
The animal lifts one of the pelvic limbs
5. Response to opening the stall door
Moves toward the door or is close to the door
Looks at the door but does not move toward the door
Does not respond to door opening
6. Response to palpation of the affected area
No response or alteration in relation to the moment before pain
Mild response to palpation of the affected area
Violent response to palpation of the affected area
After watching the videos corresponding to all sub-items of each item on the scale, watch the test videos, and analyze and score the behaviors. Then check the responses for each video. You are able to use the scale when your scores are up to 20% higher or lower than the template scores in at least three tests.
Decision to perform analgesia*
Analgesic intervention score
0 to 11
Diagnostic uncertainty zone: scores between 3 and 4
* Regardless of the score, it is up to the veterinarian to decide whether or not to use analgesics, according to the clinical evaluation.
After reading and training the previous items, click below to assess pain in your animal.