In recent years, veterinarians have made great progress in understanding how animals feel pain and the best ways to manage that pain. Many animals will instinctively hide their pain as a survival mechanism which in the past led to incorrect assumptions about the ability of dogs and cats to feel pain. Because we now understand more about how pets feel pain, we know how to recognize it and manage it.
Pain management has become an important issue in veterinary medicine. The American Animal Hospital Association along with the American Association of Feline Practitioners recently released the AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. These guidelines show that pain management helps improve the recovery process, whether from illness, surgery or injury. Because it reduces stress and increases a sense of well being, pain management may even help your pet live longer.
Understanding pain is an important part of pain management. There are two different types of pain in pets - acute pain and chronic 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 his/her mobility. The good news is that it's usually temporary and goes away when the condition that causes it is treated. We offer pain management with every surgical procedure for both the comfort of the patient, and to speed the recovery process. This may involve a preoperative injection which lasts a minimum of 24 hours, so that the patient is comfortable upon waking, as well as ensuring a restful night's sleep at home. When deemed necessary by the doctor, medication for the next few days is also included.
Chronic pain is by definition pain that lasts longer than two weeks. It can result from acute pain that goes untreated or it can develop more slowly. Common sources of chronic pain are osteoarthritis, dental disease and cancer. Animals that suffer from chronic pain often have subtle clinical signs that collectively make them appear older than they really are. And the longer the pain goes on, the harder it is to control so we always want to treat this pain early.
Signs that your pet might be in pain include:
- Depression and/or inactivity
- Rising slowly or "collapsing" to lie down
- Walking with a stiff gait, especially after getting up
- Standing or sitting in unusual positions
- Inappropriate elimination
- Whining, whimpering, howling, or constantly meowing
- Constantly licking or chewing at a particular part of the body
- Acting funny and out of character, either aggressively or submissively
- Unable to get comfortable (constantly changes positions to find the most comfortable position)
- Develops new and inappropriate behavior like chewing on objects such as wood (may indicate a dental issue).
When pain is correctly assessed and treated, patients respond with increased vigor and a sense of well being that owners recognize and appreciate.