Paincation - Treating Chronic Pain
When you hear the term ‘chronic pain’, more often than not, we think of an older person with aching joints and struggling to move; you don’t generally think of your cat or dog limping about the house. We sometimes encounter misconceptions about chronic pain in pets, as it’s frequently mistaken as a sign of aging due to the similarities in symptoms.
Because it’s so easy to brush over chronic pain as the cause for your pet’s change in behaviour, we believe it is beneficial to discuss what chronic pain is, how you can identify if your pet has it, and how you and your veterinarian can help treat the pain your pet may be experiencing.
Can Pets Experience Chronic Pain?
Your pet will experience two types of pain in its life: chronic and acute pain. Acute pain is easy to see. It is a common type of pain, and it has a protective purpose that highlights injury to owners.
Meanwhile, chronic pain is a hidden pain that occurs continuously and is usually the result of long-term illnesses. Chronic pain is a persistent type of pain that occurs in every movement and can make even simple tasks harder for your furry friend.
Chronic pain is common in older dogs and cats, as they become more vulnerable to illnesses as they age. These illnesses lead to constant inflammatory pain that doesn’t disappear unless the disease does. As a result, your pet is constantly overwhelmed by pain signals that, without intervention, can worsen.
How Can I Tell If My Pet Has Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is often hard to notice and diagnose as your pet won’t display typical signs of acute pain such as whimpering or limping. Additionally, a dog will experience this pain differently from a cat, so it can be tough to identify as a pet owner.
In general, symptoms of chronic pain are visible through behavioural variations, so keep an eye out for the following:
- Depression and anxiety
- Decrease in appetite
- Increased aggression
- Reduced activity and capabilities
One of the most important ways to support your pet is to pay close attention to any changes in their behaviour like those above. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian to discuss them in-depth and pinpoint the cause of your pet’s abnormal behaviour.
What Causes Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is the by-product of an illness that has gone unnoticed or is long-term. Many different diseases can cause this type of pain, and an early diagnosis will go a long way in securing effective treatment and pain management for your pet.
Below are some common causes of chronic pain and indicators that your pet may be suffering.
Osteoarthritis is the most significant cause of chronic pain in pets, with 1 in 5 dogs suffering from it. Arthritis essentially eats away cartilage, causing joints to rub together bone on bone, resulting in extreme pain and discomfort with every movement.
A sign of arthritis is a reduction in regular activity, as the pain will impact your pet’s ability to move around and play as usual. The pain can be so severe that your pet may begin to limp, so keep an eye on how your pet moves as they get older.
In some cases, it can be quite the challenge to spot a good look in your pet’s mouth without getting nibbled, so dental diseases can be overlooked. However, undiagnosed dental issues can cause chronic pain as without treatment or pain management, the disease worsens, and so does the pain!
Signs of pain will feature around the mouth mainly as that is the site of the disease. Your pet may have issues chewing, have bad breath, drool excessively, or paw at their mouth.
Chronic Ear Infections
Ear infections occur when bacteria or yeast enter the ear canal, resulting in some discomfort for your pet. On the other hand, chronic ear infections are consistent with recurring pain from repeated infections with an added risk it could develop into an inner ear infection.
If your pet has an ear infection, you will likely notice increased scratching around their head and ears and will frequently shake their head in an attempt to soothe the irritation.
What Are Pain Management Options For Chronic Pain?
Much like it is in humans, pets feel chronic pain daily, and without intervention, it can worsen and severely reduce their quality of life.
There are various treatment options that can be used to ease your pet’s pain and help them preserve their daily routine.
Veterinarians can prescribe drug therapies for your pet to treat any identified disease and effectively work to reduce their pain simultaneously. Generally, anti-inflammatory medication will be prescribed to minimize the pain signals transferred to the brain due to the illness and treat the sickness accordingly in the hopes that your pet’s pain will stop altogether.
However, medication is only part of the pain management plan, and it is not a solution on its own. In addition to medications, if your pet is suffering from arthritis, you will likely be given some recommended supplements to strengthen your pet’s joints and aid their mobility.
After a physical health check, your veterinarian will craft a diet and exercise plan tailored for your pet, as weight control is crucial to ease chronic pain. Extra weight can put more pressure on your pet’s joints and cause additional pain unnecessarily.
Additional fat on your pet’s body means more inflammatory tissue and could cause your pet more significant pain while also making it harder to manage. Therefore, maintaining a healthy weight in your pet is essential to diminishing their pain.
Happy aspects of your pet’s life can erode when they are in constant pain, but there are some little things that you can do as loving pet owners to bring some joy back to your pet’s world.
Consider adjusting your pet’s environment to suit their condition better and help reduce the pain they might experience. For example, if the pain is in their legs, you can move their necessities to provide easier access, such as their bed, litter tray, and food bowl. Don’t underestimate how slow adjustments to their environment will work to lessen their pain and make daily life just that much easier.
If you suspect your pet might be suffering from chronic pain, call and see your local vet to receive the best care possible for your family friend.