Pain Management

Decades ago in veterinary medicine, pain was thought to be good for an injured or sick animal. This wasn’t because veterinarians were cruel or wanted pets to suffer; they believed that pain helped keep animals sufficiently quiet in order to heal. Plus, it was thought that there really wasn’t any way to know whether a pet was feeling pain or needed some relief. Today it’s just the opposite: we now believe we should treat for pain until there is proof that an animal isn’t hurting.

Why it’s important to manage your pet’s pain?
Pain management has become an important issue in veterinary medicine. It reduces stress and increases a sense of well being, pain management may even help your furry friend live longer.

pain2.jpgDifferent kinds of pain
Acute pain comes on suddenly as a result of an injury, surgery, inflammation or infection. It can be extremely uncomfortable for your pet and it may limit its mobility. The good news is that it’s usually temporary. It generally goes away when the condition that causes it is treated. 
Chronic pain is long lasting and usually slow to develop. Some of the more common sources of chronic pain are age-related disorders such as arthritis, but it can also result from illnesses such as cancer or bone disease. This pain may be the hardest to deal with, because it can go on for years, or for an animal’s entire lifetime. Also, because it develops slowly, some animals may gradually learn to tolerate the pain and live with it. This can make chronic pain difficult to detect.

How to know when your pet is hurting?
When we have pain, we complain. However, animals instinctually hide pain so we generally don’t hear a peep out of our pets until the pain is so bad they cannot hide it anymore. So how do you know when your pet’s in pain?

Because our furry friends aren’t able to tell us when something is wrong, it’s important for you, the owner, to take note of any change in their behavior. Look for any of the following signs they may be your pet’s way of saying "I hurt."

  • Being unusually quiet, listless, restless, or unresponsive
  • Whining, whimpering, howling, or constantly meowing
  • Biting
  • Constantly licking or chewing at a particular part of the body
  • Acting funny and out of character, either aggressively or submissively
  • Flattening ears against the head
  • Having trouble sleeping or eating
  • Seeking a lot more affection than usual
  • Unable to get comfortable (constantly changes positions to find the most comfortable position)

Many animals, especially cats, naturally disguise signs of pain to protect themselves from predators. However, the lack of obvious signs does not mean they aren’t experiencing pain. If the injury, illness or experience is one that sounds painful to you, go with the assumption that it may also hurt your pet.

pain1.jpgWhat can you do to help?
First and foremost, a complete physical exam is essential. An exam may include lab and blood tests, X-rays, etc. We will recommend a treatment protocol. Ask us about simple things you can do at home to help keep your pet comfortable and to monitor whether her pain level is changing.

Massaging your pet from head to toe will help relax and soothe him. This organized form of petting is a great way to bond with your buddy as well as to notice any unusual bumps, scrapes or bruises on the body. It is important that you are gentle and do not apply pressure over the spinal area. If you pet shows any signs of discomfort discontinue massage immediately and seek veterinary advice.

  • Watch for changes in how your pet responds to exercise. If he’s acting sluggish, you may need to reduce his activity or it may mean that chronic pain is developing. His ability to exercise will depend on his health; make sure he has a thorough veterinary physical before he starts a new exercise program.
  • Watch his diet. Carefully monitor your pet’s diet to ensure he is not adding unneeded pounds. Maintaining a healthy diet will improve your pet’s pain level by managing his weight, regularity and physical health. Depending on your pet’s condition, he may need a special diet. Consult us before you make any dietary changes. 

Treatment choices and considerations
There are a variety of pain medications currently available for pets. Traditionally, steroids have been used for anti-inflammatory purposes and to decrease pain. Although effective, steroids generally aren’t used for prolonged periods; they can have adverse side effects. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are often used to treat orthopedic-related pain with fewer side effects. Monitoring Medication is recommended.

After surgery
Pain management becomes particularly important after surgeries. When recovering from invasive procedures, animals may be not only in pain, but also weak and disoriented. When you’re finally able to bring home that precious pet of yours after a procedure, the best thing you can do is consistently follow our instructions carefully. If we prescribe an analgesic for your pet, give it to him as directed. If any problems should develop, contact us immediately.
Have a comfortable, warm bed accessible to help your friend rest. Keep your pet quiet and relaxed so that he has time to heal without further injuring himself. Also, keep Spot or Fluffy from picking at his stitches (often a special collar will be recommended to prevent this from happening). Be attentive and loving. The comfort of your attention and affection may be just what the doctor ordered.