Pain and sickness behaviours, health and welfare

Changes in animal behaviour may indicate that animal is in pain or ill.

However, these changes may be very subtle or vague and thus difficult to distinguish them to be possible signs of pain or sicknesses.

Technical solutions help to recognize animals needing special attention, and them may be especially helpfull when for fearfull individuals or large animal units.

For those animals sick or in pain to get a proper care, one has to recognize individuals, understand the importance of care and to have methods to treat. The ultimate key is care-takers attitudes toward animal pain and welfare.

Below are some of our research themes related to pain and sickness behaviours

Disbudding pain

Around  300 000 calves born yearly in Finland and most of them are disbudded (ie their hornbuds are destroyed) before 4 weeks of age using hot cauterization. Majority of Finnish producers call veterinarians to pain medicate the calves prior operation. 

However, pain medication during and after disbudding should be improved to improve calf welfare and health, and increase the ethical acceptance of the painfull disbudding procedure.  Use of pain medication and local anesthesia during the opration has been studied but there is very limited information on the needed lenght of pain medication after the procedure. Also, the effects of use of combination of different sedatives on the health and welfare of disbudded calves are rather unstudied area. 

Contact information: adjunt professor Laura Hänninen

Pig pain

Manifestations of pain are not well understood in domestic pig. Pigs undergo many situations considered painful, such as farrowing and tail biting. 


prof Anna Valros,

PhD Laura Hänninen,

prof Mari Heinonen,

DVM Elina Viitasaari,


Castration pain in reindeer

Around 2500 reindeer bulls are castrated yearly in Finland without any pain medication. There are no studies on the suitable pain medication during and after castration of reindeer.