Our pets feel pain just as much as we do! They just hide it much better. Studies have shown that dogs that were observed by closed circuit camera after surgery displayed many pain behaviours that abruptly stopped when a human entered the room. Keeping this in mind we have to use a variety of different ways to assess if an animal is in pain and then how much pain the animal is in. The most effective tool in assessing pain is monitoring the behaviour of the animal. If normal behaviours are not shown or new behaviours are shown this may indicate that the animal is suffering discomfort. The best behaviours to monitor are:
Limping or reluctance to move Poor or no grooming or even over grooming
Protecting a painful area Hissing/ growling
Sitting abnormally Trembling/shaking
Slow to rise from resting/sleep Lack of vocalisation
Inappropriate urination/defecation Hiding or retreating
Excessive sleeping Decreased/absent appetite
Hunched back with head lowered Chewing/licking at painful points
Appropriate pain management requires a continuum of care with a plan that includes anticipation, early intervention and evaluation of responses of each individual patient. Research in human and veterinary medicine has shown that preventing pain to start with is unquestionably the best approach to pain treatment. It is more effective because once an animal is in pain it needs more or stronger pain relief to effectively control that pain than if the animal never experienced the pain to start with. Likewise constant pain relief is more effective than giving medication and not giving any more until the animal exhibits signs of pain again. Of course this is not always possible because we may miss the early signs or they may have an unplanned accident that we could not anticipate.
There are two types of pain, acute and chronic.
Acute pain is the type of pain that comes on suddenly as a result of injury, surgery or infection. It is the pain associated with inflammation and healing caused by the injury and can last up to 3 months. With surgery we are able to predict the pain and are able to give appropriate pain relief before the event, but this is not as easy with injury or infections.
Chronic pain is long lasting pain and is usually slow to develop like that of arthritis. This kind of slow progression of pain can go unnoticed among our pets as some can become tolerant of the pain.
At all our Veterinary Hospital Group Clinics we give pain relief to all of our surgical patients as part of their pre anaesthetic medication. Pain relief is also one of our first considerations when treating our patients in the consulting room.
We prescribe pain relief in proportion to the estimated amount of pain and the length of time the pain will be present. Every patient is different though and with help from you as the main caregiver, we may need to adjust the dose, type or length of treatment depending on the signs that your pet is showing.
There are some things you can do at home to help control your pet’s pain:
Provide a warm dry comfortable place for them to recover.
Ensure all medications are given as prescribed.
Ensure your pet recovers in a quiet un-stimulating area away from other pets and children.
Have a supportive bed or box for your pet to sleep in (empty litter trays with a blanket are ideal for cats)
Heat pads can also be helpful for chronic pain.
Investigate the supportive therapies that are available such as massage, acupuncture and hydrotherapy.
Supplying ramps for pets that are struggling with stairs or jumping.
Use a supplements such as Synoquin for 4 Cyte for chronic conditions like arthritis or other musculoskeletal problems.
If you have any concerns about the comfort of your pet at any time please don’t hesitate to call us.