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September Is Animal Pain Awareness Month: Options in Pain Management Can Offer Relief to the 45 Million Pets Suffering from Chronic or Acute Pain
September 14, 2021
More than 45 million household pets suffer from chronic or acute pain, but unlike their human counterparts, they cannot tell us where it hurts. To raise awareness on how to recognize and manage pain in animals, the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) kicks off Animal Pain Awareness Month September 1. The annual campaign coincides with human medicine’s Pain Awareness Month and includes outreach and information campaigns aimed at helping veterinarians educate consumers on recognizing pain in their pets and how to manage chronic and acute pain through traditional and complementary treatments.
“It’s often very hard to know when an animal is suffering. Their signs of pain are subtle and it’s also part of their survival instinct to hide pain,” said Jennifer Johnson, VMD, CVPP and President of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management. “That’s why it is so important for veterinarians to conduct pain assessment exams at least annually and certainly as part of regular exams. We know that chronic pain can have significant detrimental effects on lifespan and quality of life. By spotting pain early, veterinarians can better treat and manage pain.”
The IVAPM offers the following information for veterinarians and pet parents to recognize the most common signs of pain:
- Slowdown in activity.
- Not going up or down stairs or difficulty standing after lying down can be signs of osteoarthritis.
- Less play time. Not playing as much as usual can signal pain in joints, neck or back.
- Less jumping. Reluctance to jump onto surfaces -- this especially applies to cats who, when feeling well, love to explore high places. If they are not doing this, it is likely because of hip or back pain.
- Decreased eating and drinking. While loss of interest in food or water can signal a much more serious medical issue, it can also be a sign of mouth or abdominal pain.
- Changes in grooming behavior. Increased grooming or licking of an area on the body may indicate pain in that area or indicate referred pain. Decreased grooming, especially in cats, may indicate that it is too painful to twist around.
- Changes in urine or bowel movements could be related to pain and may indicate inability to maintain the position to eliminate. Cats may also have trouble climbing in and out of the litter box.
- Increases in respiration may be caused by pain.
- Changes in routine. Changes in sleeping patterns and favorite places to rest may also indicate your pet is in pain.
Options for Pain Management:
- Adopting a healthy lifestyle for your pet is the best preventive medicine and path to a longer, healthier and happier life for animals just as it is in humans. Make low impact exercise and a healthy diet part of your pets' daily routine.
- Consider/ask your vet about non-pharmacologic options for pain management including acupuncture, pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, laser therapy and chiropractic care. In the long run, it can be a more cost-effective approach to pain management and relief than traditional medications.
- Veterinarians are encouraged to conduct pain assessment exams at least annually and as part of regular exams. The physical exam is important to objectively monitor, measure and manage pain.
- Bottom line: pet parents should consult their veterinarian if they see any changes in their pets' behavior and health.
“Remember that any behavioral change can indicate a physical problem, not just that a pet is ‘grumpy,’ 'old' or 'depressed’,” Johnson said. “The veterinarian is the best person to evaluate your pet for potential painful conditions. If you notice anything, please consult your veterinarian for a full examination, including a pain assessment and talk about the findings.”
The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) is the leading forum and educational resource for veterinary professionals interested in animal pain prevention, management and treatment. IVAPM educates and informs pet owners about their pets’ health and well-being when it comes to pain management, be it acute or chronic pain.
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