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Norwich Bulletin - 4/4/2010

Your Pets And Their Pain

PAIN. As I get older, I find I have the aches and pains of arthritis and sometimes it hurts so bad I can hardly walk, especially when my hip or neck flares up. But I can take medication, call my physical therapist, and do any number of things to help alleviate that pain. But when I see one of my furry babies in pain, it generally means that something has been wrong for quite awhile since animals seldom make their pain obvious until it is very severe. So, of course, I want to do everything in my power to help alleviate that pain and make my pet feel better.

The best way to help your cat or dog is by learning about pain control. Not all veterinarians use pain medication when performing veterinary procedures or surgery because at one time, very little was known about feline and canine pain. Some of our more experienced vets who do not participate in continuing education, still feel that way. So when you know that your pet needs surgery, be it a simple spay or neuter, teeth cleaning or setting a broken leg, be sure to talk to your vet about his plans to alleviate postoperative pain before the surgery.

Appropriate pain management not only provides welcome relief for your dog or cat, but it will result in a quicker recovery period and shorter hospital stay. When an animal is in pain after surgery, it can increase stress levels, which can lengthen the healing time. But if your animal is given pain medication and it makes him drowsy, he will be more relaxed and remain calm.

When cats and dogs are feeling pain, they become withdrawn and stop eating. Many owners fail to recognize the signs until a dog starts nipping when you touch certain areas or the litterbox seems to be unusually clean. Normally happy and outgoing pets will stop playing and avoid petting. Some animals become aggressive when in pain and others completely silent. Either way, you know something is wrong. And this doesnít just happen after surgery. Tooth decay or gum disease is enough to make an animal stop eating because it hurts.

Urinary tract infections, arthritis and back problems, all are causes of pain. Declawed cats generally experience phantom pain in the digit that was removed, which is the same thing human amputees experience when they actually feel pain in a missing limb or part of the limb. And if the declaw was done incorrectly, there will be bone fragments causing such intense pain that your cat will urinate outside the box or even bite. Declaw pain can be avoided by simply saying no to declawing.

All animals have different pain tolerances, as do people. A minor discomfort to one animal can be excruciating for others. A combination of postoperative pain medication achieves a better pain control than just using one drug by itself. While one must be cautious when prescribing medication to dogs and cats because of the possibility of kidney or liver disease, or opiods that can cause dogs to become overly excited and sometimes violent, proper doses of medications can be effective.

I have a friend whose bulldog bit her so severely when on pain medication that I suggested she put the dog down Ė which she did not do and when the medication got out of her system, she went back to being her normal self. But remember that human drugs can kill your cat or dog so do not self medicate your animals. You must do it through a licensed veterinarian.

Chronic pain, such as arthritis is much more difficult to manage, and I can attest to that. While humans and dogs can take anti-inflammatory drugs long term, cats cannot. However, with careful monitoring of the blood count and kidney values, they can be used for short periods of time, intermittently. There are also nutraceuticals that can provide pain relief for arthritis. Do some surfing the web to learn more about arthritis in cats and dogs and then talk to your vet knowledgeably as you try to come up with the right pain treatment plan for your pet.

There are also alternative pain therapies that you can use in conjunction with the more usual treatments. Acupuncture can relieve muscle tension and releases endorphins into the body, which are natural pain killers. Massage also helps with various muscular conditions Ė physical therapy (which is what I need for my arthritis, so why not my cat?). Reiki and Healing Touch relieve pain, promote relaxation and speed up wound healing.

While it is best to find a specialist in one of these alternate healing methods that work with your own veterinarian, if you cannot, then I would suggest the specialist be willing to work under your own vets watchful eyes. This doesnít include Reiki or Healing touch methods, as they are totally unintrusive.

Remember these few myths and facts when trying to evaluate your petís pain: Animals donít fell pain the same way humans do." Myth! Animals feel both emotional and physical pain. "My pet does not appear to be in pain, therefore, he must not be." Myth! Not all animals cry when they are uncomfortable and in fact, most are experts in hiding pain, especially cats.

"Routine surgeries donít require as much pain medications as major surgery. And it is better for an animal to have some pain after surgery so they donít move around that much." Myth! With any surgery the patient should be evaluated and treated appropriately for pain control. Also, appropriate pain management results in quicker recovery and certainly improves the quality of life.

Now, it is up to you to make sure your best friend does not suffer needless pain in their lives.

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