Pain is physical suffering or a distressing sensation that is caused by illness or injury. Pain is subjective and complex, it’s perception differs greatly between individuals.
Our ability to judge whether our pets are in pain is greatly limited by our own perceptions about pain. The application of the definition of pain to another living creature other than yourself and then understanding the signs of pain within that individual can be a huge challenge. Many times veterinarians are faced with clients that are unable to appreciate either the subtle or overt signs of pain that their pet demonstrates. For example, clients might present a patient that is so lame that it is no longer bearing weight on it’s limb, but they are not able to appreciate that it is pain that limits the pets use of that leg. Sometimes decreased appetite, excessive grooming or licking, lethargy, sleeping excessively or having urinary or fecal accidents may be subtle and easily over looked signs that a pet is in significant pain.
Through the assistance of your veterinarian; a very careful assessment of your pet’s history, physical exam, and appropriate diagnostics, all will assist you in learning more about the degree of discomfort your pet is experiencing. By identifying the cause of the discomfort and understanding the amount of discomfort your pet is experiencing, a plan can be generated to help manage or eradicate your pet’s pain.
Analgesia is an inability to feel pain. An analgesic or ‘painkiller’ or ‘pain medication’ is a drug that relieves an individual’s pain. Pain relief can be achieved through the use of many different forms of analgesic medications. There are many additional ways to achieve pain relief such as surgery, therapeutic laser, stem cell therapy, application of heat or cold, massage, and acupuncture to name a few.
The art and science of pain management in veterinary medicine has expanded it’s horizons exponentially over the past 10-15 years.Veterinarians have become more aware of the signs of pain that our patients exhibit and we have become more cognizant of what is painful for our patients. We have also grown to learn that pain, left untreated, can escalate and be even more difficult to eradicate once management is attempted. Currently, the standard of care for our veterinary patients is very similar to that in human medicine and it utilizes multiple modalities.The descriptions below are meant as a brief overview and is not a complete listen of all the treatments available.
a. Opiods - these are synthetic narcotics that act by blocking neural receptors and associated signals that trigger pain within an individual. Examples of these medications include fentanyl, hydromorphone, buprenorphine.
1. Steroids - steroids reduce swelling and inflammation associated with trauma and immune mediated diseases.
2. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories - examples: carprofen, Previcox, meloxicam. These drugs also reduce inflammation and pain.
c. Glucosamine - helping improve the health of cartilage
d. Polysulfated glycoasaminoglycan -reduces pro-inflammatory enzymes within joints and may increase healthy joint fluid production.
e. Vitamins Omega 3 Fatty Acids
f. Other medications commonly used : Gabapentin, Amantadine, and Tramadol
g. Nerve Blocks/Epidural - Nerve blocks and epidurals prevent the sensation of pain from being transmitted to the central nervous system, by numbing or deadening the nerves. Nerve blocks are used when oral procedures are performed (just like when you go to the dentist!) or when orthopedic and soft tissue procedures are performed.
Surgery is utilized to correct defects that cause pain such as herniated discs, fractured bones, obstructed bowel, wounds and tumors to name a few. Without surgical correction, long term pain management may be difficult or impossible to achieve. Sometimes, even after surgery, patients will require long term management of their discomfort, but at a lower level of medical therapy.
a.Some types of surgeries:
Repair of orthopedic injuries - fracture repair, cranial cruciate repair (CCL),
Repair of soft tissue injuries - bowel or urinary obstruction, gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), tumors removal, laceration repair.
Repair of neurological injuries - herniated intervertebral disc, neoplasia, spinal fracture, and head trauma
Post Surgical Pain is always a consideration and is managed through many of the techniques mentioned here. Depending on the procedure performed post surgical pain may be managed for a few days or weeks after the procedure.
3. Integrative Therapies:
We offer some of these services at VCS, others we will refer you to well trained professionals within their respective fields. However, as with all treatment plans it is important that it is a collaborative effort between you as the owner and your pets veterinarian to make the best choices that integrate these alternative therapies into your pets treatment plan.
a. Stem Cell Therapy - please refer to information within this website
b. Therapeutic Laser Therapy - please refer to information within this website.
c. Rehabilitative Therapy (physical therapy)- rehabilitative therapies improve muscle tone and coordination. It assists in increasing mobility and comfort.
d. Acupuncture - commonly used for pain relief.
e. Massage - Massage therapy is supposed to improve relaxation and joint mobility.
f. Homeopathic or Herbal therapies-
g. Reike - An alternative therapy that is supposed to use energy directed to the patient for healing.