Benato, L., Murrell, J., Knowles, T. G. et al. 2021. Development of the Bristol Rabbit Pain Scale (BRPS): A multidimensional composite pain scale specific to rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). PLOS ONE 16(6), e0252417.
A species-specific composite pain scale is a prerequisite for adequate pain assessment. The aim of this study was to develop a multidimensional pain scale specific to rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) called the Bristol Rabbit Pain Scale (BRPS). The scale was developed over five phases using a unique combination of methods: focus groups and behavioural observation. The first two phases aimed at identifying descriptors to describe a rabbit in pain, and then reducing their number, both using focus groups. A total of 72 pain descriptors were grouped under six categories (Demeanour, Posture, Facial expression, Attention to the painful area, Audible and Other) and ‘No pain’ descriptors were added. The third phase aimed to confirm, through video observation of rabbits, the categories and descriptors previously described, to reject those terms that were ambiguous, and identify any new descriptors that had not been included in the previous list of descriptors. This led to the rejection of the categories Audible and Attention to the painful area and of 34 descriptors. Seven new descriptors were identified. The last two phases constructed the final format of the BRPS by refining the categories, ranking the descriptors on an ordinal scale and testing the internal reliability of the scale using Cronbach’s alpha test. This led to a composite pain scale of six categories (Demeanour, Posture, Locomotion, Ears, Eyes and Grooming) with four intensities of pain (0, 1, 2, and 3), a total score of 0–18, and a high Cronbach’s alpha coefficient (alpha = 0.843). This BRPS fills an important gap in the field of rabbit medicine and has the potential to improve the assessment and management of pain in rabbits providing veterinary professionals with a novel multidimensional pain assessment tool. Further studies will investigate the clinical utility, validity and reliability of the BRPS.