Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pets in Pain

We are often asked about managing pain in our pets, including chronic pain such as that caused by arthritis or acute pain that is caused by injury or surgery.  In the last few decades, veterinary medicine has made great strides in recognizing pain in animals and learning ways to better alleviate pain.  We now understand that we can achieve better pain control by using a combination of drugs that block pain receptors differently.  In addition, when giving these medications prior to a painful event (ie. surgery), we need less drugs to keep the pet comfortable. 

            At Brookfield Animal Hospital, we have fully embraced this preemptive, multimodality approach to pain management and we tailor our protocols to each individual patient’s needs.  Even routine surgeries such as spays and neuters receive three medications prior to surgery and are maintained on three to four medications after surgery for optimal pain control.  These medications include anti-inflammatories, narcotics, and other analgesics.  We also use local nerve blocks when appropriate.   

            We regularly evaluate our pain management protocols for new drug combinations that can keep our patients more comfortable after injury or surgery.  In our next newsletter, we will discuss the signs and symptoms of chronic pain and how we can keep those pets in chronic pain as comfortable as possible. 

It is often hard to tell that an animal is feeling pain.  Pets do not show pain in the same ways that people do.  A pet in chronic pain rarely vocalizes (cries/whines).  Instead, these pets may eat less, interact less with people or hide (especially cats), limp, walk stiffly or have difficulty getting up or jumping up.  There are a variety of reasons a pet may have chronic pain.  Arthritis is the most common cause of chronic pain and can be crippling in both animal and people.  Other causes include cancer and dental pain.

            In some cases, addressing the underlying cause can cure the problem, i.e. fix the painful tooth.  With most causes of chronic pain, a cure is not possible, but alleviating the pain and keeping the pet comfortable is often achievable with medication.  Glucasamine supplements such as Dasuquin and Adequan injections can help improve joint health and therefore decrease discomfort.  Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as Rimadyl, Deramaxx and Metacam and steroids often significantly decrease pain. 

When anti-inflammatories are not enough, adding analgesic drugs such as Gabapentin, Tramadol and narcotics will often keep a pet comfortable.  In addition, laser therapy can significantly decrease pain and inflammation.  Unfortunately, some animals do experience chronic pain; the good news is that, for many, we can keep them comfortable and happy.

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