Pain Management and Your Pet

June 051How to Manage Your Cat or Dog’s Pain

Pain is often described as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.” Pain is very subjective and difficult to measure, and can be especially difficult to measure in your cat or dog. It is important to note that just because your pet does not cry, limp, or show other obvious signs of pain, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t in pain.

Many pets experiencing pain will change their behavior patterns. This can happen gradually or quickly. Signs may include behavior change (aggressive, violent, quiet, withdrawn), vocalizing (yelping, whimpering, whining), licking the affected area, panting, increased respirations, unwillingness to eat, dullness, lethargy, decreased activity, reluctance to walk, run, jump, or climb stairs, stiffness, limping, difficulty rising or laying down, or soreness when touched.

Causes of pain in pets can vary and often include surgery, injury, or disease and illness. Necessary procedures such as spays, neuters, professional dental cleanings, mass removals, foreign body surgeries, orthopedic surgeries, etc. cause varying amounts of discomfort or pain. Pain management in these cases is based upon the procedure and the individual animal. Soft tissue injuries, broken bones, torn cruciate ligaments, burns, torn toenails, back/neck injuries, etc. also cause varying amounts of pain. Pain management is based upon the severity of the injury and the individual animal. Arthritis, tick-born diseases, urinary tract problems, severe infections, congenital musculoskeletal abnormalities, cancers, etc. are also known to cause pain. Some diseases and illness can be acute, while others are a chronic problem. Pain management is based upon duration and severity of the problem, and the response of the individual animal.

Pain management in animals has come a long way over the last several decades. There are a variety of different medications and alternative treatments that are effective in combating pain in your pet. In most cases, Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are our first choice for pain management. NSAIDs control pain as well as inflammation, usually providing relief for a moderate degree of pain. Some common NSAIDs used for dogs in a veterinary setting include Rimadyl, Previcox, and Metacam. They can be available as a capsule, tablet, chewable tablet, or liquid. Metacam has traditionally been used for short-term pain management in cats off-label, and Onsior is a relatively new medication that is approved for use in cats over 5.5# for up to three consecutive days. NSAIDs can cause GI upset resulting in vomiting and diarrhea, giving these medications on a full stomach helps to decrease this side effect. NSAIDs can occasionally cause damage to the liver and kidneys which is why we require blood tests before beginning long-term use, and every six months during use

Tramadol is an alternative pain medication that we also use on a regular basis. Tramadol is a synthetic opiate-like pain medication. It has no anti-inflammatory properties and can be taken at the same time as an NSAID. Tramadol is available as a tablet, and can cause drowsiness, but does not usually cause GI upset. Tramadol can be used in dogs and cats and is available in a flavored tab great for cats and small dogs. It is important to note that even though it is available in a flavored form Tramadol is a very bitter drug that is historically difficult to give to cats.

Gabapentin is another pain medication that is most often used in addition to an NSAID and Tramadol to treat chronic pain conditions. Gabapentin is used in both dogs and cats and is available as a capsule. It can occasionally cause drowsiness or uncoordination and should be used cautiously in pets with known kidney problems.

Buprenorphine is often a first-choice pain medication used in cats. It is a liquid and is given either IV (intravenously), SQ (subcutaneously under the skin), or by mouth. It can cause drowsiness, and a slight decrease in appetite. Buprenorphine is often used in surgical or critical patients for relatively severe pain control.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin are joint supplements that help to support cartilage production and block cartilage breakdown. The Dasuquin, and S3 Chews are used in dogs and both contain glucosamine and chondroitin and are available as a chew or a tablet. Dasuquin is also available for cats and comes in a capsule form that is usually opened and sprinkled over food. These supplements can be especially helpful in cases of arthritis and have virtually no known side effects.

Acupuncture can be a very effective form of pain management when done in conjunction with other pain medications or by itself. Please call us here at River Road Veterinary Clinic or see our previous blog posts for more information on traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture.

When pain management is needed and other options are too costly or unavailable, a veterinarian-approved dosage of Aspirin is the only over-the-counter human pain medication safe to give dogs. Aspirin is an NSAID that should always be given to your dog in the buffered form to protect the stomach. It is also occasionally given to cats once every three days if no other options are feasible. Aspirin can sometimes cause GI upset with resulting vomiting and diarrhea, and occasional GI bleeding

Acupuncture can be a very effective form of pain management when done in conjunction with other pain medications or by itself. Please call us here at River Road Veterinary Clinic or see our previous blog posts for more information on traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture.

Please note that over-the-counter pain medications such as Ibuprofen and Tylenol should NEVER be given to your pet. They can cause serious and permanent kidney and liver failure if given in even small doses. Please call River Road Veterinary Clinic immediately if your pet has ingested any of these medications!

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