Importance of Pain Management in Pets

A redish brown dog its eyes closed, laying against a pillow with a white blanket

Pain is something that most of us will deal with on a regular basis. It is also something that is just as likely to affect our precious pets. Sometimes the cause of this pain is a short or sudden injury, and the discomfort abates very quickly. However, some problems cause ongoing, chronic pain that is so severe that it interrupts your ability to live a normal, active life. Your pet is no different, and if she suffers from regular periods of pain, you will undoubtedly want to do everything you can to manage her discomfort.

What is pain and what are the different types of pain my pet might experience?

Pain is actually an unpleasant sensory experience that triggers a response on an emotional level. Since every animal is unique, the way in which they experience can be very different, and much like us, what is acutely painful to one pet might only trigger mild discomfort in another.

Pain acts as a warning system that we can use to tell us something is wrong with our body or health. So similarly, if your pet is showing signs that she is in pain, it would indicate that she needs medical attention from you or a professional as soon as possible. Without pain telling your pet that she needs help, her medical problem might go unnoticed for days, weeks or even longer.

Different types of pain

Pain has been known to be categorized in a variety of ways. However, it is normally divided into the following:

Acute pain. This is sudden pain that comes on as a reaction to an undesirable stimulus, for example bruising, burning, crushing, impaling or twisting. Acute pain typically improves a few days after the incident that caused it to occur.

Chronic pain. This is a persistent pain that is ongoing, usually as a result of a progressive underlying illness such as osteoarthritis. The pain doesn’t unusually dissipate without treating the initial cause of it.

Cancer pain. This normally occurs due to the growth of tumors, or as a result of the toxic effects of cancer treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy.

Humans also tend to experience neuropathic pain which is caused by damage to the nerves. However, since animals are rarely able to communicate this type of pain, neuropathic pain is rarely recognized in veterinary medicine.

How do I know if my pet is in pain?

Most pets will naturally try and hide any vulnerabilities that they have, including if they are experiencing pain, a trait which harks back to before they become domesticated. However, there are some signs and symptoms that could indicate your furbaby is suffering. These include:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Heavy breathing / panting
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Excessive vocalization
  • Restless/anxious behavior
  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Aggressive/moody personality changes
  • Persistently licking, biting or rubbing part of her body
  • Loss of appetite

Treating pain in pets

For our veterinarian to be able to effectively treat the pain that your pet is experiencing, he will first need to discover what is causing it. This is where veterinary intervention comes in and your pet may need to undergo a number of tests to try and determine what is triggering her pain.

While treating the underlying cause of the pain should help alleviate her discomfort, there are some additional things that you can do to help keep her comfortable. These include:

  • Providing soft bedding for her so that she can rest well.
  • Make her bed, food and water all easily accessible so that she doesn’t have to walk far or bend uncomfortably to reach them.
  • Ensure she has easy access outside. If she has arthritic pain, a ramp may help her to manage any steps.
  • Keep her warm. Cold conditions tend to exacerbate feelings of pain and make it more difficult to manage. Warmer environments are particularly beneficial for animals with joint pain.
  • Undertake exercise that is recommended by our veterinarian.

You could also consider some forms of complementary therapy, including massage, veterinary homeopathy and acupuncture, all of which have been shown to be beneficial in helping pets to manage their pain.

If your pet is prescribed pain relief medications, you should ensure that you stick to the dosage and frequency recommended. Giving the drugs too often could cause your pet to overdose, while leaving too long between administering her pain relief could cause her to suffer.

If you have further questions about pain management in pets, our experienced and knowledgeable veterinary team are on hand to help you. Please contact our clinic at your convenience