The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as “an unpleasant emotional experience associated with actual or potential damage.” Within this definition it is specifically stated that “the inability to communicate verbally does not negate the possibility that an individual is experiencing pain.” In other words, your pet is unable to tell you that he or she is hurting, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t. Instead, they communicate pain in other ways and it is important to be able these recognize the signs.
Some of these signs include:
Limping · Decrease in appetite
Lethargy · Vocalization
Hiding (particularly in cats) · Tenderness upon palpation
Panting or heavy breathing not associated with physical exertion
In veterinary medicine, the countless sources of pain can be broken down into 4 main categories:
Surgery – Soft tissue pain from surgical incisions
Orthopedic – Arthritis, tendon/ligament injury, bone fractures, orthopedic surgery, etc.
Chronic Illness – Auto-immune diseases, cancer, organ diseases, etc.
Trauma – Lacerations, bone fractures, patients hit by car, etc.
Animals can be stoic and not outwardly show signs of pain, but all of these instances can be painful and it is imperative to keep this in consideration. For example, some owners may think, “My pet is getting old and so is naturally having a harder time walking,” when in fact their pet may be developing arthritis. Arthritis can be incredibly painful and discussing pain management with your veterinarian may be a wonderful thing for your older friend.
At Westside we use two types of Western pain management; non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and opioids/opioid-like drugs. NSAIDs, such as Metacam, Rimadyl and Deramaxx decrease inflammation, which thus decreases pain. These are perfect for the treatment of arthritis and post-surgical inflammation. However, NSAIDs can eventually cause kidney and liver damage, so when a patient is on them long-term, it is important to routinely check bloodwork. While NSAIDs target inflammation, opioids only target pain without decreasing inflammation. Opioids such as Butorphanol or Buprenex and Tramadol (which is an opioid-like drug) may safely be given in addition to NSAIDs, or independently of them, depending on the pet’s circumstance. Aside from offering the traditional Western medications, Westside also offers the option of acupuncture and Chinese herbs as treatment for pain. Two of the three veterinarians here are well versed in acupuncture treatment and can advise you on the best herbs to help treat your pet.
Developing good communication between you and your pet is important. The more you understand about the way your pet communicates pain, the better your relationship can be with them. If you feel like your friend may be showing signs of being painful, the best thing you can do for them is bring them in to see their veterinarian at Westside Veterinary Clinic. We can help you determine the best course of pain treatment for your pet and their lifestyle.
963 W. Route 66 Suite 230 Flagstaff Arizona 86001
ph:(928) 779.0148 fax: (928) 779.0149
The Veterinarians at Westside would like to thank you for your continued support of the Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center of Northern Arizona, open week nights after 5:00 pm, weekends
Friday 5:00 pm through Monday 8:30 am, and on major holidays
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