Whenever a pet undergoes surgery at our Springfield veterinary hospital, the doctors and staff focus on preventing and controlling pain with specific medications and treatments at numerous points during the procedure. Before surgery begins, the pet is given pain relief injection or oral medication. This helps stop pain before it starts, and also helps calm the patient and reduce anxiety.
At the time of inducing anesthesia, injectible pain relief is given. Once under anesthesia, the pet receives IV fluids which contain pain control medications. The incision site is prepared and injected with local anesthetic, numbing the nerve endings so the pet doesn’t register there is a painful stimulus occurring. Once surgery is finished, laser treatment over the area helps reduce swelling and pain. Cold therapy is also utilized in some pets.
Depending on the surgery, some patients are continued on the fluids/pain medication mix for recovery. Patients are sent home with several days' worth of pain medications.
Chronic Pain Treatment Options for Dogs
Arthritis and chronic muscle/joint pain is common in aging dogs. Initial injuries, or simple wear and tear can cause joints to break down and result in secondary muscle and joint pain. Chronic pain results in behavior changes in our pets.
Because pets don’t show pain like people do, we have to watch for subtle BEHAVIOR CHANGES. Look for:
- Reluctance to go up or down stairs
- Not jumping into the car or up on the furniture any longer
- Difficulty rising, sitting, squatting or lifting leg to eliminate
- Tiredness, low activity, sluggishness
- Reluctance to walk, run, play
- Loss of appetite
- Not getting up to greet you when you come home
- Aggression or snapping in an otherwise nice dog
- Muscle stiffness after exercise
When dealing with a pet in pain, our #1 goal is to provide comfort that improves quality of life for as long as we can. Exams include muscle and joint palpation and range of motion testing. X-rays - done under sedation for patient comfort - help us evaluate hard and soft tissue in the areas of concern. We then evaluate response to treatment and formulate long term goals and treatment plans individualized to your pet’s needs.
Methods of Pain Control
Weight Loss is #1
A pet with painful joints is less likely to exercise while still eating her regular diet, and will gain weight. Body fat actually produces chemicals that increase inflammation within the joints. Excess weight places extra strain on already painful joints. Weight loss as little 6% can show dramatic improvement in pets with chronic pain.
This prescription diet made by Hill’s has a salmon protein base with very high amounts of EPA fatty acid, which has been proven to block the enzymes that destroy cartilage in the joint. 80% of pets show improvement with mobility and pain levels after being on the j/d diet for 8 weeks. It is also calorie restricted, helping weight control. Salmon-based foods purchased over the counter will not contain the same level of EPA as the prescription diet.
This medication acts to protect the cartilage within the joints, slowing down wear and tear. The injections are given on a tapering schedule. We can instruct you on how to give the injections at home, or we can do them for you here at no additional cost.
This NSAID pain reliever reduces inflammation and swelling within the joints and soft tissue. Research shows that long term use of NSAIDS works best, so once we place a dog on this medication for chronic pain, we want to keep them on it. Bloodwork prior to starting this medication shows if liver and kidneys can tolerate the drug, and we continue to monitor the blood after that. Watch your pet for any signs of GI upset (vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and change in stool color). If you see any of these signs, stop the medication and call us ASAP.
There are many different NSAID options for dogs available, so we may try a different NSAID if Deramaxx isn’t providing the expected results.
This medication reduces pain that has been “centralized,” as well as neuropathic pain. It works very well in combination with NSAIDS. We usually start on a low dose and may gradually increase the dose if needed. The main side effect is sleepiness, and we adjust the dose if this occurs.
Recent research has proven that the pathways that tell the brain the body hurts are also the pathways of depression. When you are hurting, you are more stressed and have higher anxiety levels --both people and pets. Reducing anxiety associated with pain reduces the perceived level of pain, providing better overall quality of life.
Therapeutic Laser Therapy
By using very specific wavelengths of light, a laser stimulates cells to do their job better. This can be used to reduce pain and muscle soreness, speed healing and reduce swelling.
This traditional treatment has been proven to stimulate the nervous system to function better. Useful for pain relief in arthritic cases, nerve injury cases, and spinal problems, it can be used at myofascial trigger points that may develop from chronic pain. Dry needling the myofascial trigger points is performed under mild sedation for patient comfort.
When a patient hurts in one area, say a back leg from a knee injury, he begins to shift his weight to remove pain from that limb. This causes undue stress on other joints and muscles. and wasting or atrophy of the painful limb. Over time, this leads to even more difficulty for the patient to return to function, even if pain is controlled. Rehabilitation exercises are important to bring an injured, post-operative, or arthritic pet back to function and to provide best quality of life. Rehabilitation sessions are formulated based your pet’s specific needs.
Pain Control in Cats
Did you know that 92% of cats older than 12 years have radiographic changes in the lower back and hips consistent with arthritis? Cats show pain in many different ways:
- Not jumping up on the couch/counter
- Not grooming
- Litter box issues
- Excessively vocal
- Pain when petted
- Crying when being picked up
Although there are fewer pain relief medications for cats than dogs, there are new drugs available that are safe to use, as well as the rest of the treatments listed above.
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