As a veterinarian I consider it my duty and privilege to be an ambassador for our animal friends. One of the most important obligations I believe that I have is managing pain in pets – ensuring that every animal in my care is pain free. Animals do not display pain the same way that we, as humans, do. Many pets suffer in silence as they are not able to tell us that something is wrong, and they do not understand that we can often alleviate the discomfort they are experiencing. Cats are prone to hide pain as this shows a weakness that decades of evolution has taught them to hide. Dogs are driven by their instinct to eat, sleep and play… often pain will take a back seat to these activities until it is severe enough to impede their ability to enjoy these things.
Our team at Westway Animal Clinic is very aware of how important your feedback is on how your pet is doing, and whether you have noticed any behavior changes, no matter how slight or insignificant they may seem. Often a slight shift in routine, posture, appetite, sleeping patterns, activity level or attitude/personality can tell us a lot about whether or not a pet is feeling under the weather.
If you think back to your last tooth ache, headache, sprained ankle, back ache or broken bone, you realize that pain can present in many ways. We use words like sharp or dull, shooting or burning, throbbing or stabbing, chronic or acute to describe the pain we are feeling and we recognize that sometimes we feel pain in one area of our body because of something we have done to another area of our body (referred pain, common with back pain). My job as a veterinarian is to try and figure these things out without your pet being able to tell me what they are feeling. This is accomplished by combining a thorough physical examination with clues from you about their current behaviour and anything that may have happened to cause a health concern.
While there are many drugs that we can use to manage and control pain, it is very important that we work to find the source of the pain as this will enable us to, hopefully, eradicate the pain permanently. In cases of chronic pain conditions like osteoarthritis our goal is to manage pain in order to keep your pet comfortable, stress and pain free. My time as a veterinarian has shown me countless examples of how combining medications with other modalities (everything from laser therapy, to nutrition management, to weight management, to environmental modifications to physical rehabilitation) allows us to control your pets comfort while not merely bogging them down with drugs. Each drug has its own side effects and risks so we work hard managing pain while managing your pets overall health and well-being.
Treating pain early or, when possible (ie. In the case of surgery), pre-emptively means that we can control the pain more easily and your pet will not feel the stress and other negative implications that pain can bring with it. Studies have shown that pain not only delays healing time, it also increases the rate at which some cancers spread and can cause behavioural changes that can affect both your pets’, and your own, quality of life. We strive to allow your pet the opportunity to feel like themselves as quickly, and for as long as, possible.
As an AAHA-Accredited hospital we take our role in pain management very seriously. We follow very specific pain protocols and have well-laid out processes for identifying, scoring and managing pain in pets. The scoring is a very important piece of the puzzle as, if we can measure the pain a pet is feeling, we can compare their pain after treatment to ensure we are properly alleviating their pain. We know that pain is difficult to define or quantify, even for ourselves, so this method allows for us to consistently assess, monitor and treat each patient on a case-by-case basis. Pain management should never be a one-size-fits-all approach and for that reason we do what we can to create very individualized plans that include home-care and a combination of pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic methodologies.
For us, as a veterinary heathcare team, we take great pride in knowing that Westway Animal Clinic has a focus on pain-free experiences for every animal in our care. Knowing they are comfortable, sleeping well, stress-free and eating well means that we too can go home and do the same after a long day at work. I truly believe that “Good pain management in suffering animals is not only an obligation, but a professional privilege” and I take pride in knowing that my entire team feels the same way.
Please talk to us about your pets and anything you may have noticed that could indicate they are feeling discomfort. Whether it is dental pain, arthritis, a limp or a wound – we are here to help!