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Veterinary Pain Management Makes Great Strides

When a person is in pain, he or she usually makes it clear that something is wrong. Humans can speak, and we can ask for...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Sep 3rd 2008


When a person is in pain, he or she usually makes it clear that something is wrong. Humans can speak, and we can ask for more pain killers. It is generally accepted in human medicine that effective pain control not only makes patients more comfortable. It also helps them heal.

Sadly, animals cannot give clear signals of pain, and they can’t ask for pain killers. But their need for pain management equals that of their human counterparts. This puts them, and the people who want to help them, at a disadvantage.

Years ago, veterinarians questioned whether animals could even feel pain. That ridiculous debate has been put to rest. But later an equally nefarious philosophy evolved. Many veterinarians believed that pain was good for animals. Pain helped keep animals from walking on broken legs. It kept post-operative patients from being excessively active–or so the theory went.

The idea that pain is good in any way has been completely discredited by modern veterinary medicine. All decent vets now agree that animals feel pain, and that pain is bad. It causes stress and interferes with healing. Pain hurts, and it causes suffering.

Veterinary practitioners now recognize that pain management is critical to their patients’ comfort and healing. And we have an ever-widening array of pain management solutions at our disposal.

Options include conventional painkillers such as opiods (related to morphine) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs). Local anesthetics are useful in some procedures. Rehabilitation and physical therapy are useful in other situations.

Newer pharmaceuticals and nutritional supplements show promise in the treatment of acute and chronic pain. Lasers, stem cells, and extracorporeal shock wave therapy have the potential to help many animals.

The moral of the story is this: advances in animal pain management are occurring at breakneck speed.

If you suspect that your pet is at risk for pain–from dental disease, a surgical procedure, arthritis, trauma or any other sort of injury–talk to your vet. He or she should be willing to discuss a modern, comprehensive pain management protocol tailored specifically to your pet’s needs.

Veterinarians have lots of options for managing pain in their patients. There is no excuse for your pet to suffer.