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Papers of the Week

2022 Aug 31

Animals (Basel)



The Welfare of Fighting Dogs: Wounds, Neurobiology of Pain, Legal Aspects and the Potential Role of the Veterinary Profession.


Mota-Rojas D, Mariti C, Marcet-Rius M, Lezama-García K, Gazzano A, Hernández-Ávalos I, Mora-Medina P, Domínguez-Oliva A, Whittaker AL
Animals (Basel). 2022 Aug 31; 12(17).
PMID: 36077977.


Throughout history it has been common to practice activities which significantly impact on animal welfare. Animal fighting, including dogfighting, is a prime example where animals often require veterinary care, either to treat wounds and fractures or to manage pain associated with tissue and where death may even result. Amongst the detrimental health effects arising are the sensory alterations that these injuries cause, which not only include acute or chronic pain but can also trigger a greater sensitivity to other harmful (hyperalgesia) or even innocuous stimuli (allodynia). These neurobiological aspects are often ignored and the erroneous assumption made that the breeds engaged in organized fighting have a high pain threshold or, at least, they present reduced or delayed responses to painful stimuli. However, it is now widely recognized that the damage these dogs suffer is not only physical but psychological, emotional, and sensory. Due to the impact fighting has on canine welfare, it is necessary to propose solution strategies, especially educational ones, i.e., educating people and training veterinarians, the latter potentially playing a key role in alerting people to all dog welfare issues. Therefore, the aim of this review is to describe the risk factors associated with dogfighting generally (dog temperament, age, sex, nutrition, testosterone levels, environment, isolation conditions, socialization, education, or training). A neurobiological approach to this topic is taken to discuss the impact on dog pain and emotion. Finally, a general discussion of the format of guidelines and laws that seek to sanction them is presented. The role that veterinarians can play in advancing dog welfare, rehabilitating dogs, and educating the public is also considered.