Pain Management And Pain Awareness In Cats And Dogs

Physical pain affects animals and humans alike. But because our furry companions cannot describe their symptoms, they rely on us to recognize and treat their discomfort. While the signs of acute pain are often easy to recognize, all too often, chronic or low-level pain in pets goes undiagnosed. Behavioral cues such as reluctance to exercise or loss of appetite can be misinterpreted and are often dismissed simply as signs of advancing age. Learning to understand how our pets experience and show pain is a critical step in managing their discomfort.

Recognizing Subtle Signs of Pain in Pets

To help educate the public about pain awareness and management in pets, the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) has declared September as Animal Pain Awareness Month. It’s an excellent opportunity for pet owners to recognize potential signs of pain in their animals.
Be alert to these potential pain signs:

  • Decreased Activity
  • Reluctance to Climb or Descend Stairs
  • Reluctance to Jump onto Surfaces
  • Difficulty Standing after Lying Down
  • Decreased Appetite
  • Over-Grooming of a Specific Body Area

Let’s look at what these potential pain signs tell us.

  • A sudden decrease in activity or mobility could be a sign that your pet is suffering from some form of musculoskeletal pain. Often this is an indicator of osteoarthritis, a torn ligament, a concealed injury, or obesity.
  • A sudden decrease in appetite could signal oral pain such as that caused by dental or periodontal disease or mouth ulcers (which can be a sign of kidney problems).
  • Persistent over-grooming could signal a “hot spot” or granuloma on the skin, a parasitic infection (check for fleas and ticks), or a response to referred pain from another source.

Pain Management in Pets

Recent advances in veterinary medicine have broadened our management options for cats and dogs that are experiencing pain. In fact, pain management has become an important sub-discipline within our vet practices. Effective management of discomfort not only helps your pet feel better, but it also promotes healing and speeds recovery times.

We have a range of options for treating pain in pets.

    • Medications

Meds, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids, are often used to manage discomfort in pets. Because dogs and cats cannot tolerate human NSAIDs like ibuprofen, we prescribe pet-friendly medications that relieve pain and that are safe.

    • Alternative Treatments

Veterinary medicine has begun to embrace some alternative pain management techniques such as acupuncture, combination therapy for glucosamine and chondroitin (for osteoarthritis), and aqua therapy (often helpful in pets experiencing post-surgical pain).

    • Diet & Lifestyle Changes

Some pet discomfort can be mitigated through changes in diet and lifestyle. For example, an obese cat suffering from joint pain may benefit from weight loss to reduce pressure on load-bearing joints.

At Richmond Road Veterinary Clinic and Tates Creek Animal Hospital, we take your pet’s pain seriously. If you suspect your dog or cat may be suffering from acute or chronic pain, let us know. One of our experienced vets can evaluate your pet, diagnose the source of discomfort, and work with you to create a pain management treatment plan. Don’t let your pet suffer a minute longer. Contact us today.


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