Whether from old age, injury, or illness, pain can take a pet from happy and active, to miserable and immobile.
Thankfully, there are numerous options that are available to help a dog or cat experiencing pain whether it is chronic or temporary. And like humans, options range from drug therapy, to alternative therapies including acupuncture and laser treatment, to the more traditional approaches of physical therapy, exercise, and massage.
Understanding when your pet is in distress is the key to successful pain management. Unlike us, animals don't have the ability to tell us about their discomfort and because of their natural instincts, often go to extreme lengths to hide their pain. Too, pain often manifests in unexpected ways that are not always immediately identified as discomfort. As such, it takes a perceptive owner with a keen eye to tell when there are problems and when help is needed.
Pain left untreated can grow worse over time effectively diminishing the quality of life, becoming more difficult to treat, and sadly, sometimes reducing lifespan.
At times, it is very easy to know your pet is in pain just by a yelp, a hiss, a whimper, or a sudden physical change - an unexplained limp, for example. Unfortunately, not every animal responds to pain the same way, and often, discomfort comes with subtle behavioral changes that are often not immediately noticed. A dog experiencing pain may have a reduction in activity - hesitant to climb stairs, reluctant to play catch or play, or show a disinterest in going for walks. A cat may pant or purr for no reason or stop the daily cleaning ritual. Pain, too, can manifest in other ways including licking/biting at an area, unusual behaviors including depression and anxiousness, or maybe a decreased appetite. An owner might notice a change in bathroom habits (such as peeing or defecating on the floor, or missing the litterbox), and to the worst extreme, aggression in even the gentlest of pets.
There have been tremendous advancements in pain management for animals in just the past 5 to 10 years, with veterinary medicine embracing multiple treatment options ranging from pharmaceutical, such as gabapentin or CBD, to holistic approaches like acupuncture, to physical therapy and exercise. Too, there are endless options for mobility aids including ramps, carts, splints, belly lifts, paw booties and grips - all designed to increase quality of life, reduce pain, and prevent further injuries.
What's important for a pet owner to know is that there are options which may provide relief, and our goal is to help you and your pet.
Though we will review pain during a normal exam, if you feel your pet is experiencing pain or may be in discomfort, schedule a visit as soon as possible. The longer pain is left untreated, the more difficult it becomes to treat. We are fortunate to have multiple treatments for pain at our disposal, and though not all will work the same for every patient, pain does not need to be overwhelming. And remember, many patients will need to have more than one treatment to address all aspects of their pain, while the more chronic the pain, the more likely to need more than one medication or treatment type.
The sooner pain is identified, the sooner we can try and find relief, and the happier you and your pet will be.