Understanding animal pain

Welcome to the CVM PhD Course on Understanding animal Pain 6. - 8.11 2018 (2 ECTS)!

Bengal Cat (Fia) wikimedia

The course is organized by the Doctoral Programme in Clinical Veterinary Medicine (CVM) at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki and is aimed at doctoral students from veterinary and other animal-related fields, from CVM and other doctoral programmes.  

The main aim of the course is to increase the understanding of pain perception in different animal species, and that of how pain can be assessed. In addition, we will facilitate discussion on the attitudes towards pain, and towards painful procedures and conditions in different animal species and animal groups.


In addition to the on-site lectures, student discussions and activities, the participants will be given pre-reading material, and a post-course assignment. 

The three-day course starts on Tuesday the 6th of November. However, during the evening on the day before (Monday the 5th of November), a public lecture is held by one of the course teachers, Dr Lynne Sneddon. The course participants are warmly welcomed to that as well, but it is not a requirement for course credits. 


The course venue will be within the central campus of the University of Helsinki (in the city Centre of Helsinki). Helsinki offers various possibilities for different priced accommodations. 

The course is funded by the Doctoral Programme in Clinical Veterinary Medicine (CVM) at the University of Helsinki and is free for all participants. 



Lynne Sneddon

Lynne Sneddon, Director of Bioveterinary Sciences at the University of  Liverpool

Lynne’s research addresses mechanistic and functional questions in animal welfare using aquatic models particularly addressing pain, fear and stress.  Current research topics include exploring pain assessment and analgesia in laboratory fish and use of young non-protected larval fish to replace adults. Lynne is Chair of the Animal Section within the Society for Experimental Biology, sits on the NC3Rs Research Grant Panel and is ethics editor for the journal Behavioral Ecology.
Home Page F.I.S.H


Mette Hersinkin

Mette S. Herskin, Senior scientist in animal behavior and stress biology at Department of Animal Science, Aarhus University, Denmark. 

Mettes´research links ethology, veterinary science and biomedicine and focuses on the welfare of farm animals when kept under conditions, where welfare may be challenged. A large part of her research is focused on the development of behavioural methodology to quantify pain and other negative affective states and thereby improve the understanding of the welfare effects of production diseases, other pathological conditions (such as mastitis, shoulder ulcers, hernia) and management procedures (such as animal transport, pick-up facilities, dry-off and sickness pens) in animals kept for meat production and as part of model studies. 
Home page

Matt Leach

Matt Leach, Ethologist and animal welfare scientist at Newcastle University, UK

Matt’s research focuses on various aspects of the welfare of laboratory, companion and farm animals. More specifically, the assessment and alleviation of post-procedure pain, the assessment of pain and distress associated with euthanasia, and how housing, husbandry and common procedures can affect the psychological of captive animals and its influence on pain and distress.
Home page


Jo Murrell

Jo Murrell,  Reader in Veterinary Anaesthesia, University of Bristol, UK.

After working as head of small animal anaesthesia at the University Utrecht and a two year period in New Zealand as a Post Doctoral Research Fellow  Jo returned to the University of Bristol in 2007 as Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Anaesthesia where she divides her time between clinics, teaching and research. Jo is passionate about clinical pain management and pain research, with the aim of promoting best practice in analgesia provision in patients.
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Anna Hielm-Björkman

Anna Hielm-Björkman, Clinical instructor at the Faculty of veterinary medicine, University of Helsinki, Finland

Anna has a long interest in research and is now most interested in the ultimate reasons behind pain and diseases. She feels she could have the biggest impact on animal wellbeing  by finding ways to prevent painful disorders all together. To be able to do this she has had to develop several indices that measure eg. chronic pain or functionality in dogs. The Helsinki Chronic pain index is now being validated in several languages and the CSI-Finland and the FinFun help physiotherapists evaluate treatment outcome in canine patients. 
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Public talk: (Mon 5.11): The evidence for pain in fish/ Lynne Sneddon

Day 1 (Tue 6.11): Defining and assessing pain:

  • Do fish experience pain? / Lynne Sneddon

Day 2 (Wed 7.11): Identifying and measuring pain:

  • Assessing pain in non-human animals using facial expressions and behaviour/ Matt Leach
  • Measuring pain in different species: pain scoring tools for companion animals, analgesiometry, and behavioural methods to assess pain in farm animals and horses / Jo Murrell

Day 3: (Thurs 8.11) Current pain issues in domestic animals:

  • Companion animals: Anna Hielm-Björkman
  • Farm animals: Mette Herskin

The participants should have a basic knowledge of animal managament and  welfare. Students can be from any discipline (veterinary, animal science, biology, social science), as long as they are working with, or have a strong interest in animal welfare, health or pain.

The course is free all participants. Accommodation and travel expenses are not covered. 


 Please use this form.
In case the course fills up, doctoral students from CVM are prioritized, and are accepted in order of registration. All other applicants are asked to shortly describe their motivation; background info,  current affiliation and  expected benefit of the course for their work. Please apply before 28.9. Please note that registration is binding. We will inform accepted participants soon after registration has ended. Cancellation is free before 15.10. After that a 150EUR cancellation fee will be applied.


Liisa Uotila, the CVM co-ordinator: tel. + 358 50 3789272

The course will be organized at the Helsinki University City Campus with easy acces from the airport or harbour.
Address: Siltavuorenpenger 3, Helsinki , map link

The pre-course public lecture on Monday will be at Viikki Campus, with easy access from the city center.
Address: Info-center Korona, Viikinkaari 11, Helsinki, map link

Helsinki has an effective local transport and various possibilities for accommodation.

Local transport route planner
Tickets and fares 
Accomodation possibilities

Ateena sali kartta

Ateena - hall (sali) map



  • to understand how subjective pain experience in different species can be studied
  • to be able to critically evaluate the conceptual background of different animal pain assessment systems and their outcome
  • to understand the principles and challenges of different animal pain assessment systems
  • to understand attitudes towards different species and their pain assessment


The course will be evaluated based on active participation in the course and the group discussions. In addition, completion of a post-course assignement will be required.


Lecturers will provide relevant pre-reading material prior to the course when appropriate