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Pain Management

Do Dogs and Cats Feel Pain?

Of course! Although there are various receptor differences, we know that their nervous system's response to pain is similar to ours.  Like human babies, our pets can't tell us always when they are suffering.  Sure there may be obvious signs like limping or vocalizing, but what about walking slower or not jumping? Our pets can't tell us what's wrong or when he or she is suffering, but that doesn't mean the pain is less significant or shouldn't be treated.  

Pets often share traits in common with their humans and research has also shown animals share the way they experience pain. Therefore, you may recognize some medications, techniques and care for animal pain that your own doctor similarly prescribed for you. Common medications we prescribe for pets include analgesics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), anti-anxiety medications or topical anesthetics. However, it is very important to note that you should never give your pet medication designed for a human unless first consulting with your veterinarian. Many medications designed for humans can cause life-threatening and irreversible reactions in animals. As with small children, medications should be kept out of reach of your pet.

You are your pet's best advocate. If you are concerned your pet is in pain, let us know!

When it comes to managing your pet’s pain, our practice offers and the highest quality of care utilizing compassion and the most effective medical treatments available. We develop a unique pain management plan to best serve the individual needs of your pet. This plan may include medication, complementary treatment or a combination of both.

Why is it Important to Control Pain?

Research has shown that pain and discomfort change behavior and delay recovery.  The underappreciated stress of pain and its associated responses may include abnormal heart rhythms, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, decreased appetite and associated weight loss and immune suppression, resulting in disease.  It may also result in decreased energy, constipation and even pneumonia.  

Studies have shown that patients feel better, eat sooner, and return to normal activity sooner if their pain is addressed.  

See, there are lots of reasons to treat pain!

Signs of Pain in Cats

  • Loud Meowing, purring (yes! purring), hissing or growling. 
  • Hiding More than Usual & Acting Withdrawn
  • Heightened Aggression
  • Rapid Breathing or Panting
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Changes to Your Cat’s Eyes/Appearance of the third eyelid
  • Changes in Eating and Drinking Habits
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Changes in Grooming Habits
  • Agitation and Sleeplessness
  • Trembling
  • Abnormal posture
  • Decreased Energy
  • Altered Movement or Gait
  • Changes in Bathroom Habits
  • Excessive grooming or decreased grooming
  • Swellings on your cat’s legs, body, or face, could be an indication of a painful condition (i.e. tooth root abscess, inflammation, or cancer)
  • Purring - Yes, purring! Often thought of as a sign of pleasure, increased purring can actually also be a sign of pain. If your cat purrs while displaying any of the signs above, it may be out of pain instead of pleasure.

Signs of Pain in Dogs

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Changes to Your Dogs's Eyes/Appearance of the third eyelid
  • Antisocial or aggressive behavior
  • Vocalization - whining, howling, whimpering, yelping, groaning and grunting
  • Trembling
  • Restlessness
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Increased heart rate
  • Reduced appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Depression
  • Reluctance to move
  • Changes in eating, drinking or sleeping habits
  • Excessive grooming
  • Changes in body or posture

What Causes Pain in Cats?

Here are a few of the more common causes of pain in cats:

  • Cancer – especially bone cancer, squamous cell carcinomas of the mouth, any type of cancer that enlarges a capsular organ, such as a kidney or the spleen, and tumors that press on important internal structures.
  • Kidney or bladder stones
  • Bladder inflammation (cystitis)
  • Urethral obstruction
  • Ear infection – these can be very painful for cats, especially if the infection has been going on for a long time and/or it involves the middle or inner ear
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) and/or the stomach (gastritis) and intestines (enteritis)
  • Digestive tract obstruction, including linear foreign body obstructions
  • Arthritis of the hip(s), elbow(s), or any other joint(s) (Note here: cats actually develop arthritis far more often than people realize, meaning that there are many cats that are living with the pain of undetected and untreated arthritis.)
  • Periodontal disease or tooth fracture
  • Resorptive tooth lesions (often called FORLs or neck lesions)
  • Eye problems such as glaucoma, uveitis, or corneal ulcers
  • Feline Aortic Thromboembolism, or FATE
  • Trauma or injury
  • Ingestion of poisons
  • Surgery

What Causes Pain in Dogs?

Here are a few of the more common causes of pain in dogs:

  • Cancer – especially bone cancer, squamous cell carcinomas of the mouth, any type of cancer that enlarges a capsular organ, such as a kidney or the spleen, and tumors that press on important internal structures.
  • Kidney, bladder or urethral stones
  • Urinary Tract Infections
  • Ear infection – these can be very painful for cats, especially if the infection has been going on for a long time and/or it involves the middle or inner ear
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) and/or the stomach (gastritis) and intestines (enteritis)
  • Digestive tract obstruction, including linear foreign body obstructions
  • GDV or Bloat
  • Broken Nail
  • Arthritis of the hip(s), elbow(s), or any other joint(s)
  • Periodontal disease or tooth fracture
  • Eye problems such as glaucoma, uveitis, or corneal ulcers
  • Intervertebral disc disease
  • Trauma or injury
  • Ingestion of poisons
  • Surgery

How is Pain Treated?

Common medications we prescribe for pets include analgesics such as opioids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), anti-anxiety medications or topical anesthetics.

We may also prescribe lifestyle changes for your pet such as specific diet, soft bedding, exercise, or an extra snuggle now and then are just some of the things that may help your pet’s pain at home.

As part of your pet's pain treatment plan, we may also suggest complementary methods, such as supplements, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture and stem cell therapy to decrease your pet's pain and improve his or her quality of life.  cold laser therapy, Therapies such as massage, heat or strength building may seem familiar while some of our newer technology and machines might sound new to you. 

Determining whether your pet’s pain it is acute or chronic is the first step to identifying the cause. Acute pain is often sudden and triggered by a specific event. For example, if your pet receives a recent injury, they may experience acute pain. However, chronic pain persists over the long term and causes may include conditions such as joint inflammation, arthritis, or unattended tooth decay.

Early intervention is important when it comes to managing your pet’s pain.

Notify our practice right away if you notice any of the above signs so we can take action to assist your pet.

Will Pain Medication Make my Pet More Likely to Injure Himself?

It is very rare for a pet needing pain medication, to feel so good, they injure themselves. Once your pet's activity returns to normal, we may recommend you confine or sedate your pet to restrict his or her activity. 

How Can I Treat My Pet's Pain at Home?

Although you may recognize some medications, techniques and care for animal pain that your own doctor similarly prescribed for you, it is very important to note that you should never give your pet medication designed for a human unless first consulting with your veterinarian. Many medications designed for humans can cause life-threatening and irreversible reactions in animals. 

It is important to treat your pet at home how you have been instructed and administer the medication prescribed by your veterinarian.  

It is important to keep all medications out of reach of pets so as not to risk a toxic exposure. 

Warm vs Cold Compresses

Cold compressing is used during the immediate post-injury period when you want to minimize swelling and inflammation (i.e. you are causing vasoconstriction of blood vessels and thus not allowing mediators of swelling and inflammation to arrive to the injured site). More specifically, cold compresses are used during the first 48-72 hours after trauma (surgical or injury). 

For example, easing sore muscle sprains and strains, you should begin with cold then move to heat. Apply a cold compress for about 5-10 minutes per session every four to six hours for the first 48-72 hours. The cold should reduce swelling and inflammation, and relieve pain. A cold compress can be a cold pack, a plastic bag filled with ice, or a bag of frozen vegetables. Wrap the cold compress in a towel or dry cloth to prevent frostbite when placing it on the skin.

The cold treatment should be followed by heat therapy, which can begin after the pain and swelling have subsided. That's usually two to three days after injury. The heat helps relax tight and sore muscles and reduces pain. Apply the heat to the injured muscle for 5-10 minutes up to three times a day using a warm water bottle, warm compress or warm bath.  

Heat is usually a better treatment than cold for chronic pain (ie, arthritis pain) or for muscle relaxation. 

Warm compresses are used when you want to vasodilate (i.e. you want to increase circulation to facilitate the use of an injured area).  This may be before physio-therapy exercises or even just a leash walk.  You want to vasodilate, open the "vascular floodgates."

After using the compromised muscle or joint then you may revert to vasoconstriction again (ie-more ice). 

Diet and Metabolic Considerations of Pain

It is important to consider diet and metabolic needs for pets with chronic pain. Chronic pain is pain that continues for a long period of time or recurs frequently. Some pets in pain, lose their appetites and suffer from malnutrition; while others will overeat, become less active resulting in obesity. 

Contact your veterinarian if you are concerned. 

What are the Risks of Treating My Pet for Pain?

All drugs have side effects.  You and your veterinarian should discuss the risks versus the benefits of the medications, including quality-of-life concerns.  Monitoring for vomiting, diarrhea, and changes in eating patterns may alert to an issue and you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. 

You may need to return to Metropolitan Veterinary Center periodically to have your pet's blood and urine tested.  

 

 

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