While we know that different people have varying degrees of tolerance for physical pain, what do veterinarians and members of the public think about pain sensitivity in different dog breeds? A new study asked both veterinarians and the general public to rate pain sensitivity in 28 dog breeds.
The findings show that both owners and veterinarians think that smaller dogs are more sensitive to pain than larger ones. The public is more likely than veterinarians to view dogs subject to breed specific legislation, or BSL (Pitbull, Rottweiler, etc.) as less sensitive to pain than other dogs.
The public and veterinarians had similar perceptions about small dogs and pain sensitivity, rating breeds like the Chihuahua, Maltese, and Pomeranian as very pain sensitive. Both tended to view certain larger breeds as less pain sensitive, such as the Labrador Retriever and Rhodesian Ridgeback.
Veterinarians and the public had different perceptions about some of the larger dog breeds and breeds subject to BSL. The vets showed more awareness of pain sensitivity in these breeds than the public. Examples include the Husky, German Shepherd, and Weimaraner.
The authors note that public belief in low pain sensitivity among dogs subject to BSL (like the Pitbull) is based more on breed stereotypes than direct evidence. Veterinarians are more likely to have personal experience with pain sensitivity as well as “breed-specific stoicism” and have a more accurate view of pain.
Perceptions of pain sensitivity in small dogs can also be influenced by appearance and stereotypes, such as baby-like faces and a tendency to be nervous or tremble. The public was more likely to attribute higher pain sensitivity in breeds they felt warmly about. However, the vets felt more warmth for breeds with less pain sensitivity, perhaps because they are easier to work with.
Interested in learning more? You can read the full text of this study HERE.