September is Animal Pain Awareness month.
Our companion animals often instinctively hide their pain. It’s a habit that has evolved as a survival mechanism to prevent predators from targeting them.
“Pain in dogs and cats can be difficult to measure,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Hospice, which provides palliative and euthanasia services throughout West Michigan.
“The clues can be subtle. Your dog may be reluctant to climb stairs or show decreased activity, or may simply stop initiating play,” she said. “In the case of cats, a reluctance to jump up onto surfaces is a sign of discomfort.”
The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) was created to educate vets and pet parents alike in the expanding field of pain prevention, management and treatment.
According to IVAPM, the most common signs of pain in your pet are:
- Decreased activity – Take notice if your pet is not playing as much as usual
- Not going up or down stairs – This could be an early sign of osteoarthritis
- Difficulty standing after lying down – is a sign of osteoarthritis
- Over grooming or licking a particular area – can be a sign of referred pain
- Decreased appetite – this can signal mouth pain
- Reluctance to jump up onto surfaces – this especially applies to cats
- Behavior changes – such as growling at fellow companion animals or withdrawal
Pain Management Options:
There are a variety of complementary treatment options depending on the source of pain, including physiotherapy, cold laser, acupuncture and nutritional supplements. In addition, there are many types of medication that can help manage your pet’s pain and improve their quality of life. Some examples are:
- NSAIDs – There are special NSAIDs designed for dogs that interfere with the body’s production of inflammatory molecules and are often prescribed for mild to moderate pain.
- Opioids – Just like humans, pets may be prescribed opioids to address severe pain from arthritis or advanced cancer.
- Corticosteroids – Cortisone and synthetic cortisone-like drugs such as prednisone are potent anti-inflammatory medications that can deliver dramatic relief, though not without side effects.
- Gabapentin – Is a popular choice for managing chronic neuropathic pain.
Don’t let your pet needlessly suffer. Be observant for signs of pain and talk to your vet.