It wasn’t that many years ago that most veterinarians felt that pets didn’t experience pain in the same way that people do. We would spay and neuter dogs and cats everyday and send our patients home without even thinking about pain control. Veterinarians felt that if we relieved the pet’s pain they would be too active and may hurt themselves and delay healing. Nothing could be further from the truth. So many pets suffered because of this misconception. It is now well documented that pets heal much quicker when on pain control. Another very common form of pain is chronic pain. Chronic pain is pain that is long lasting and very debilitating. The most common disease that causes chronic pain is arthritis. Arthritis often strikes older dogs. Until recently there were no approved medications available to help chronic pain. THANKFULLY that has all changed.
Dogs and cats show their pain differently. They don’t complain like people. They often just isolate themselves when experiencing pain. When veterinarians observed our patients sitting quietly at the back of the cage and not moving very much we were often looking at an uncomfortable patient. At home you may see your pet not following you or wanting to be touched. By the time they are crying in discomfort the pain has escalated to a terrible level. We now understand pain much better in pets (and people) and have the medications to control it. The most common medications that are used are in a class of drugs called NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). There is a new generation of these drugs available that are safer and more effective. We also use narcotics when the pain has escalated to a level when greater control is needed or when your pet can not tolerate a nonsteroidal. The most common NSAIDS dispensed are Rimadyl, Deramaxx Previcox and Metacam. No NSAID is considered more effective than another and they all can have side effects. Maybe more than any other class of drugs the individual response varies from patient to patient. Because of this when one NSAID doesn’t work another often will.
Aspirin is also in this class of drugs but many dogs may not tolerate it and it can cause stomach ulcers and bleeding. Cats are especially sensitive to many of the NSAIDS and there is no approved oral NSAID for cats in the US. Tylenol is another drug in this class but it is rarely used and not very effective in pets. It has very little anti-inflammatory action. Tylenol is very toxic to cats and one Tylenol can kill a cat. Please NEVER use any over the counter human medications on your pets without first contacting your veterinarian. Whenever you do see your veterinarian for a condition that involves pain be sure to let them know any medications that you are giving your pet.
It is routine and necessary for your Veterinarian to take blood if your pet is on an NSAID to be sure they are not affecting the liver or kidneys. Most reactions to these drugs are mild but some may be serious. The most common side effects include vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite. If you see any of these side effects you should stop the drug immediately and contact your veterinarian.
After 25 years in practice and hundreds of major advances in veterinary medicine, I believe the advances in the control of pain and suffering has been the most significant advance for our pets.
Compliments of Dr. Steven Wolchinsky D.V.M. of Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital 301-776-7744