Whether your pet is recovering from surgery or is experiencing pain due to injury or conditions such as arthritis, pain management is crucial to their recovery and their quality of life. There are multiple modalities for managing pain in pets.
Do Pets Need Pain Management Like Humans?
According to veterinary science, all mammals have the same type of neuro-anatomical structures that humans have to perceive pain. This means that animals feel pain much like humans do, making pain management necessary for animals who are experiencing pain from surgery, injury, or other conditions.
Other than the obvious ethical reasons for not allowing an animal to be subjected to pain and suffering, there are also physiological benefits to treating and managing pain in pets. When the pain goes uncontrolled, there is an increase in the production of stress hormones, such as cortisol. This can cause:
- Increased blood pressure
- Slower wound healing
- Increased length of hospital stay (after surgery)
- A decrease in gastrointestinal motility
How to Recognize Pain in Your Pet
Since your pet can’t communicate with you directly, it can be difficult to tell when they are in pain. Whether they are in pain from surgery, an injury, or an underlying issue, there are a number of signs that your pet is suffering from pain, including:
- Sudden changes in drinking, eating, and sleeping habits
- Excessive growling, snarling, yelping, or howling
- Aggressive or antisocial behavior
- Stiffness and limping
- Excessive grooming
- Altered breathing or heavy panting
- Restlessness, pacing, sleeping less, or difficulty getting comfortable
- Trembling or shaking
- Swelling or changes in body posture
If you notice these signs of pain, be sure to set up an appointment with your veterinarian who can prescribe the correct medication and dosage needed to manage your pet’s pain. It is crucial to avoid treating your pet’s pain yourself using human medications or medication prescribed to other pets, which can be very dangerous for your pet.
When you give human medications to pets, they can experience complications such as ulcers, liver and kidney damage, holes in the lining of the stomach, and gastrointestinal bleeding. These complications can be caused by issues from mixing medications, sensitivity to human medication, or by giving them the incorrect dosage, which is why it is important to only give your pet medication prescribed by your veterinarian.
To help make your pet more comfortable, you can help limit their movement and physical activity. You can also provide them with soft padded beddings well as a quiet place for them to relax that will help encourage a speedy recovery.
Pain Medication for Pets
There are a few options for pain medication when it comes to treating pets for discomfort after surgery or pain caused by orthopedic issues such as arthritis. Common options include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or opioids.
Aspirin is one of the most common over the counter NSAIDs but should only be used temporarily to manage pain. Other prescription NSAIDs such as meloxicam are safer to use every day for pain relief.
A common opioid used for pets is Tramadol and is used for very severe pain. It is also often used with NSAIDs to increase its effectiveness. Due to the high abuse rate, opioids are not commonly prescribed.
Gabapentin is another pain medication that is usually given with an NSAID +/- or an opioid as well in severe cases.
If your vet prescribes your pet with pain medication, there are side effects to watch out for, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Issues with digestion including diarrhea and vomiting
- Changes in behavior
- Skin redness
If your pet is described pain medication, be sure to ask the vet what side effects to look out for and see if there is a leaflet available that you can take home to review and learn more about the medication.
Risks of Pain Medication for Pets
Whether you are giving your pet an NSAID or a vet prescribed medication, there are risks you should consider. Pet pain relief medication is typically administered via pill or by injection. Oral medication could be in liquid form, which can just be added to your pet’s food, or it may come in a pill or tablet form. Pills or tablets can be harder to give your pet and will need to be concealed inside a small morsel of canned dog food or a soft dog treat, which does not always work. You can ask your vet for suggestions if your pet has difficultly taking oral medication.
In addition to difficulty administering the medication, there is also the risk of an allergic reaction, although they are rare. Medications that are administered to pets are tested before they are approved for use, so they do not have a high chance of causing an allergic reaction. In some cases, though, there are some dogs who can have a bad reaction to certain medications, so it is important to closely pay attention to your pet when starting a new medication.
Alternative Treatments and Natural Pain Relief Options for Pain in Pets
There are a variety of alternative treatments for pain relief. One popular option is Full Spectrum CBD. Whole hemp extract is safe for your pet and does not contain the psychoactive compound THC. This extract works to relieve pain by reacting with a series of receptors in the body called the endocannabinoid system.
The cannabinoids interact with the receptors in your dog’s body to help curb issues such as pain, nausea, and anxiety. A major benefit of full-spectrum CBD is that it will not damage the liver, GI tract, or kidneys like traditional pain medications, making it a great option for long-term use. Full-spectrum CBD can be used for back pain, arthritis, occasional discomfort, and more.
Supplements can also be used to aid in relieving pain. For example, if your pet has arthritis, you can supplement their food with omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to reduce inflammation of the joints. Glucosamine and chondroitin are other supplements that can also help reduce joint swelling and repair cartilage to help ease the pain. Weight management is another method that can be used to ease the pain of arthritis.
Laser Therapy is another way to manage pain for pets who are suffering from inflammation or pain caused by injury, common skin conditions, wounds, acute problems, and chronic issues such as osteoarthritis and back pain. Laser therapy is a safe and painless option for managing your pet’s pain and has been used regularly since 2002 when it was approved by the FDA.
This procedure uses a beam of light, set to a certain wavelength that is used to treat pain and heal. With laser therapy, your veterinarian can reduce your pet’s swelling, reduce their healing time, and lessen their pain. Results are cumulative, so for best results, your pet may require several treatments. This therapy can be also be used in conjunction with medication for even better results.
Chiropractic care for your pet is a natural, drug-free alternative to pain management. This is an effective and non-invasive way to provide your juvenile, adult, or senior pet with relief from pain while helping to maintain a healthy nervous system.
Chiropractic care can help with vertebral subluxations or misalignments in the spine. Some examples of vertebral subluxations include:
- Uneven muscle tone
- Acute neck or back pain
- Issues with jumping or climbing up the stairs
- Sensitivity to touch
Pets with chronic pain conditions respond well to treatments that include a combination of conventional and alternative therapies. When practiced correctly, this is one of the safest options for pain management. Using chiropractic care, in addition to more traditional treatment, can help get your pet back to comfort and health more quickly.
Questions about Pain Management? Contact us Today!
At the Animal Medical Center of Streetsboro, we offer a wide range of expert pain management therapies and treatments to help your pet heal and lead a more comfortable life. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and learn more about how we can help you manage your pet’s pain.