Pain and Your Pet
All animals have similar neurological pathways and experience pain in much the same way we do. Pain is a stressor to the body, causing a complex series of physiological reactions. Animals in pain do not heal as quickly as those given adequate pain relief. In addition, untreated pain increases the frequency of contracting other illnesses, infection, and disease.
Determining if an animal is in pain is not always easy. Some animals and some people are more sensitive to pain than others. There are also many different levels of pain to which animals and humans respond in varying ways. For example, pain from arthritis does not cause the same intensity of pain as slamming your finger in a car door.
Animals are genetically predisposed to hide pain. Animal ancestors in the wild would become prey or be removed from the pack at any sign of injury or weakness. If you notice any changes in your pet's behavior, activity level, appetite, or attitude, it may be related to pain. It is beneficial to have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian immediately, because it is easier to treat pain and the underlying causes early, rather than when it is out of control. The bottom line is that all levels of pain experienced by your pet should be treated to ensure a longer and better quality of life.
Signs that your pet may be in pain include:
· Changes in personality: A normally quiet and docile dog can become aggressive, or an aggressive dog can become quiet.
· Abnormal vocalizations: Whining or whimpering, especially when a painful area is touched or the pet is forced to move.
· Licking, biting, scratching, or shaking of a certain area.
· Changes in posture or movement: Limping, holding a paw up, or tensing to produce a tucked-up appearance.
· Changes in activity level: This includes restlessness, pacing, lethargy, or reluctance to move.
· Loss of appetite.
· Shaking or trembling.
· Changes in facial expression: You may notice dull eyes or pinned ears.
· Changes in bowel movements or urination: This may include straining during elimination or eliminating in inappropriate locations.
Examples of Pain: Some examples of different types of pain include acute pain such as a traumatic injury, chronic pain such as arthritis, and pain from surgery.
Acute pain is any pain that occurs suddenly due to an accident or trauma and goes away as the injury heals. Examples of acute pain include fractures, sprains, lacerations, bowel obstructions, and muscle strains. In most cases, the cause of acute pain is easily identifiable. Acute pain usually responds very well to pain medications during medical treatment.
Chronic pain is any pain that persists after an injury has healed or persists because a damaging process is ongoing. Chronic pain includes arthritis, nerve damage, and some cancers. The cause of chronic pain can sometimes be troublesome to identify. A diagnostic work up is often indicated to determine the cause of this pain. Chronic pain can be debilitating and can be challenging to treat.
Anytime your pet has a procedure where tissue is cut or an incision is made, your pet will experience pain. The best way to treat surgical pain is to stop it with pain medication before it starts. We will anticipate the level of pain for the procedure your pet will undergo and address it before, during, and after the surgery with many different therapies. These medical therapies work best in combination, in other words, they are more effective together than any one therapy alone. It is critical to administer pain medication prior to a procedure to prevent a series of complex reactions the body goes through in response to pain. If post-surgical pain is not treated immediately, higher doses of pain medication will be required for pain relief. This, in turn, can result in unnecessary side effects, and pain will not be controlled as effectively. Following surgery, therefore, we will prescribe appropriate medications to continue to manage your pet until he or she is pain free.
A common myth is that a little pain following surgery is a good thing to keep an animal quiet. This is absolutely false. Studies have shown that pain lengthens recovery times and suppresses the immune system. A pain-free pet following surgery is a pet that will recover and resume normal activity faster.
We will work with you and your pet to minimize pain throughout his or her lifetime and to maximize his or her happiness, comfort, and well-being at all times.