Pain in pets is similar to pain in humans in that it can be caused by a number of different conditions or situations and it can be minor and brief, significant and chronic or anything in between. In some cases a pet’s pain is due to a very specific and acute situation that can be handled fairly rapidly and therefore may does require any sort of pain management techniques be applied. However, there are also situations where the source of a pet’s pain cannot be easily or rapidly handled. These things simply take time to heal from–as is the case when a pet is recovering from surgery. Where this occurs, pain management techniques can actually be essential to the pet’s health, comfort and ability to experience a smooth, full recovery.
The Benefits of Pain Management
No one wants to see a pet deal with pain or suffering, and this alone is reason enough to establish a pain management program. However, there are also some demonstrable physiological benefits to putting pets on a pain management program where deemed necessary and prudent. Research has proven that pets who experience uncontrolled pain also experience an increased production of stress hormones. An abundance of these hormones can slow wound healing, increase blood pressure, decrease gastrointestinal motility and more–essentially dragging out a pet’s recovery period. It is for this reason that pet owners are encouraged to monitor their pet’s behavior following injury, illness or surgery, looking for signs of discomfort.
Though veterinarians are certainly alert to situations where a pet is experiencing pain, pet owners are considered the best judge of whether their pet is in pain simply because they know their pet’s normal personality and behaviors. When determining whether their pet may be in need of pain management, owners should consider whether their pet is:
- Acting normally–not displaying either too little or too much energy.
- Drinking normally–not consuming either too little or too much.
- Eating normally.
- Excited to see them like they usually are.
- Playing with their favorite toys and participating in their favorite activities as they regularly would.
While each pet is different, a pet that is in pain will usually not act like his normal self, will pant or drool excessively, will be reluctant to move around, will seem depressed and will often even vocalize in an unusual way. If this is the case, their veterinarian should be contacted immediately so that their condition can be assessed and an appropriate pain management program can be designed. Some pets tolerate pain better than other pets, just as some people tolerate pain better than other people. However, the veterinarian will be able to determine the underlying source of the pain and address it in a way that will be most beneficial to the pet’s recovery and health.
Once your veterinarian has prescribed a pain management program for your pet, it is very important to take the time to clarify and understand their instructions so that you can follow them precisely. For example, dogs are often sent home with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, in order to cope with pain conditions. An owner that decides to administer more of these drugs than is prescribed can create an accidental overdose, which can lead to life-threatening gastric ulcers if left undetected and untreated. Other drugs that may have minimal side effects initially can become more serious and uncomfortable if given in too large quantities. Whatever program your pet’s veterinarian recommends or prescribes, make sure you understand it and follow it religiously.
An Important Note
It is very important that you always consult with your pet’s veterinarian prior to placing them on any sort of pain management program–especially if this program involves medications. There are some pain management options that can be effective and appropriate in certain situations, but that can also be dangerous in other situations. Furthermore, some pain medications that are safe and acceptable for humans to use can be dangerous or toxic for pets to consume. For example, Tylenol can be very tempting for a cat owner to administer to their ailing cat in an effort to provide them with some measure of relief, but even a single, small dose of acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) can be deadly to cats. Furthermore, administering an aspirin to your pet can prevent the veterinarian from prescribing a different, more effect pain medication for several days, since taking certain medications on top of aspirin can potentially increase the risk of stomach ulcerations and other serious side effects.
For more information about which pain management solutions are right for your pet, contact La Crosse today.