Pain Management

Everyday we have many discussions amongst our staff at SOAR.  We are starting this blog to bring you in on some of the topics we are passionate about and even get you to weigh in on some of these sometimes heated topics.  One of the things we talk about every day is pain management.  Every day we see animals walk in our doors in varying degrees of pain.  When asked what pain medications the are on, the answer is often none at all.  Why is this? Sometimes medications are declined by owners due to their perceptions of "drugs".  Sometimes it is because they have been deemed non-painful by their veterinarian.  Sometimes it is just because these subtle signs we see are not known to be expressions of pain.  So here we go....

What determines if an animal is painful?  Is it that they cry out?  Is it that they react when you touch an area that is painful?  These are definately signs of pain but are more common in acute pain and or at higher levels on the pain scale.  These reactions usually are the ones that concern owners and veterinarians the most, resulting in use of pain medication.  But what about the lower levels of pain?  What about the more subtle signs that we are missing.  Lets use cats as an example.  Senior cats with chronic pain from osteoarthritis may start to be a little less social at home, they may start urinating or defecating outside their litterbox, or they may sleep more.  These symptoms are often attributed to just being older.  But remember, age is not a disease!  Often these animals respond well to multi-modal forms of arthritis management including omega fatty acid supplements, laser therapy, cartrophen injections, acupuncture and yes, sometimes medications such as a Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory or Gabapentin.

Aside from arthritis, chronic pain can be an accumulation of multiple conditions including, but not limited to, dental pain, ear infections, bladder infections, and back pain.  Some of our patients experience ALL of these things.  So now lets compare them to humans.  It has been shown that people with chronic pain will sleep more, socialize less, experience depression and sometimes anger.  The longer we let pain continue without breaking the pain cycle, the harder it is to get it under control.  So what do we do?  We look at the big picture.  Not all animals experiencing pain are going to cry out when manipulating their joints.  They may give us a bit of resistance, lick their lips or turn their head to just look at you.  This is their way of communciating to us and we need to listen.  Sometimes a 2 week pain vacation helps us to get them back on track, moving better, and allowing for rehabilitation that they may have resisted previously.  

Remember that these animals experience pain.  Remember there is always an option and sometimes that option includes medications.  Treating pain sooner, rather than later is important as it is much harder to control that pain and wind down their nervous system, the longer that it continues.

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