The Importance of Pain Management
No one likes to feel pain. Pain can be good when it keeps us from doing things that will harm our bodies but untreated pain is never good. There was a time when people believed that animals did not feel pain on the same level as humans. Fortunately we now understand that this is not the case at all. Animals feel pain in much the same way as we do. If you think something would be painful for you, it is most likely painful to your pet as well.
What animals do is mask pain. In the wild the organism that shows pain becomes lunch. Unfortunately, that very stoicism, if unrecognized, can lead to increased suffering for our pets. As veterinarians and owners, it becomes our job then to ensure that our pets receive adequate pain management. Good pain control is good medicine. It is an integral part of patient management at Animal Family.
Why is pain control so important? Uncontrolled, pain affects not only the well being but the behavior, health and longevity of our pets. How so?
- Pain prolongs recovery time from surgery, injury or illness.
- It may cause arthritic cats to urinate or defecate outside the box. Sadly, this may be mislabeled as a behavior problem resulting in euthanasia.
- It can lead to maladaptive pain. That is pain which is caused by things that are not normally painful. An example would be the older dog or cat which bites when a child attempts to pet them.It can cause self mutilation. An animal may lick or chew at a body part unrelentingly creating even further damage.
- It may cause weight loss due to oral or body pain.
- Pets may be unwilling to groom and take care of their coat due to pain.
- A previously active animal may become listless. It may simply be too painful to move.
- A pet can become constipated due to an inability to posture and defecate normally.
- Pain may precipitate pacing and restlessness. A behavior that may be misinterpreted as nervousness.
- Pain can cause aggression towards other animals. An animal which anticipates pain may strike preemptively at a housemate
As owners and veterinarians we must make recognition of pain a priority. It is important to watch your pet carefully for the subtle signs of discomfort or distress. Our new golden rule must be to never allow our pet to remain in pain because we have simply become used to seeing them that way seeing them that way. Watch for changes in behavior and talk it over with your veterinarian. Then as a team you can work to make your pet’s life not only longer but happier.