As a pet owner, watching your pet experience pain can be difficult. Whether they are dealing with a broken toenail, chronic arthritis, or recovery from surgery, pets suffer pain in many different ways. But, thanks to modern veterinary advancements, many pets are feeling better and healing faster with excellent pain control. Depending on your pet’s condition, your Southern Crossing Animal Hospital veterinarian will develop an appropriate pain management plan tailored for your individual pet. Following are some examples of different treatment modalities that we may recommend:
Medications and supplements
Mainstays in pain management, medications have come a long way in helping pets feel better. Pain medications come in many classes, such as:
- Opioids and opioid derivatives
- NMDA antagonists
- Local anesthetics
Of course, not every pain medication is appropriate for every pet. For instance, osteoarthritis patients often benefit greatly from anti-inflammatory medication, whereas local anesthetics may work well for treating scrapes or skin injuries. Supplemental products don’t typically address pain, but they can help support problem areas, potentially leading to better function and less discomfort. Popular supplements include essential fatty acids for skin and heart health, and glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support.
Pets can suffer from numerous painful musculoskeletal problems. From osteoarthritis, to dysplasia, to intervertebral disk disease, our four-legged friends are no strangers to conditions that cause functional issues and subsequent discomfort. Consistent physical therapy sessions that include range of motion exercises and massage can help restore mobility, and offer pain relief. If your pet is a good physical therapy candidate, our veterinary team will refer you to a certified canine physical therapist, or a board-certified specialist in veterinary sports medicine and rehabilitation.
Therapeutic lasers, which use specific light wavelengths, can penetrate tissues and stimulate a process known as photobiomodulation. This cellular chain of events is thought to release endorphins, dilate blood vessels, and create new capillaries, contributing to faster healing and decreased inflammation. Laser therapy is a popular tool for pets recovering from surgery, but those with chronic joint and muscle conditions may also benefit.
By inserting extremely fine, sterile needles into certain acupressure points, a certified veterinary acupuncturist can encourage blood flow and nerve function in a particular area. This time-tested technique has been around for thousands of years—and for good reason. Acupuncture encourages endorphin release, along with numerous anti-inflammatory elements, and is a great adjunctive therapy in any pain management plan. While acupuncture’s benefits are hard to deny, don’t expect your pet to be completely pain-free after one session—acupuncture works best with consecutive treatments.
Spinal manipulation therapy can bring instant relief to pets suffering from painful spinal subluxations. Through brief, high-intensity movements, a veterinary chiropractor is trained to help restore joint mobility safely and effectively. Chiropractic adjustments are a great addition to a pet pain management plan, but ensure that you contact Southern Crossing Animal Hospital for referral to a qualified practitioner.
Ultimately, your pet’s pain plan should be left to our veterinary team, but we rely on you to report back on your pet’s response to therapy. This is where pain scales are incredibly useful. Since pets are notoriously stoic, assessing their pain can be difficult and unproductive. With pain scales, we can assign pain scores based on a series of objective questions about your pet’s behavior, body position, and reaction to stimuli. We use pain scales frequently in our hospital and intensive care unit, where pets are often in uncomfortable situations. While some scales are better for use in a clinical setting, others are good for at-home use, so pet owners can easily monitor their pet’s pain. Our veterinary team may recommend a specific pain scale based on your pet’s needs, but here are a few examples:
- Colorado State University Canine and Feline Acute Pain Scales
- Glasgow composite Measures Pain Scale (GMPS)
- Helsinki Chronic Pain Index (HCPI)
Assessing pain in pets is not always easy, so contact Southern Crossing Animal Hospital for a consultation if you are unsure your pet is experiencing pain.
I loved that you said that acupuncture could encourage blood flow and nerve function in a particular area to manage pain. This is something that I will share with my brother who owns a 4-year old Labrador that has been showing visible signs of pain due to arthritis. He wants to find an alternative way to help his dog cope with pains, so I will share this with him.