Why It’s Important to Manage Your Pet’s Pain
Different kinds of pain
This type of 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 her mobility. The good news is that it’s usually temporary. It generally goes away when the condition that causes it is treated.
This is a long lasting ain that is 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 Do You know When Your Pet Is in Pain?
When humans feel 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 is hurting?
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. Pets have different ways to say, "I hurt." Look for any of the following signs:
- Being unusually quiet, listless, restless, or unresponsive
- 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
- 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, assume it is for your pet too and contact us for an appointment.
How You Can Help
First and foremost, a complete physical examination is essential. The exam may include lab and blood tests, X-rays, etc. We will then recommend a treatment protocol and answer your questions about things you can do at home to help keep your pet comfortable and to monitor the pain level.
Watch for changes in how your pet responds to exercise. If he’s acting sluggish, you may need to reduce activity, or it may mean that chronic pain is developing. Your pet's ability to exercise will depend on his health, so make sure he has a thorough veterinary physical before he starts a new exercise program.
Watch his diet. Carefully monitor what your pet eats to ensure he is not adding unwanted pounds. Maintaining a healthy diet can improve your pet’s pain level by managing weight, regularity and physical health. Depending on your pet’s condition, a special diet such as Hill’s Prescription Diet® J/D, which has been clinically proven to reduce pain in over 80% of dogs with arthritis, may be recommended.
Treatment Options and Considerations
There is a variety of pain medication available for pets, including those that come in pill form, liquids, skin patches or gels. There are also new analgesic (pain-reducing) products that can help treat your pet after traumatic injury or for chronic pain. Traditionally, steroids have been used for anti-inflammatory purposes and to decrease pain. Although effective, steroids generally aren’t used for prolonged periods because they can have adverse side effects. Always strictly adhere to your veterinarian’s instructions when administering medication.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are often used to treat orthopedic-related pain with fewer side effects. There are several other classes of pain medications and it's important for you to talk to your veterinarian about the different medications, so that together you can find the best treatment plan for your pet.
It's also very important that you do not give your pet any medication without consulting your veterinarian. Certain painkillers, such as acetaminophen which is found in Tylenol, or combinations of medications can be toxic to pets in very small doses. Consider the side effects and the time required for each treatment option. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you about the costs, benefits and risks of the various treatment options.
Pain management becomes particularly important after surgery. When recovering from invasive procedures, animals may not only be in pain, but also weak and disoriented. When you’re finally able to bring your pet home after a procedure, the best thing you can do is carefully and consistently follow the discharge instructions. If your veterinarian prescribes an analgesic for your pet, give it to him as directed. If any problems should develop, contact your veterinarian 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. Be attentive and loving. The comfort of your attention and affection may be just what the doctor ordered.
As with any medical condition, your veterinarian is your best ally in identifying and managing your pet’s pain. Pain management requires a team effort in order to have a happier and healthier companion.