Hi Dr. Barchas,
Yesterday my 10-year-old German Shepherd underwent surgery to have several small skin tumors removed. Last night, he seemed restless and reluctant to lie down. Finally, he fell asleep and he seems fine today. But I am worried that he might have been in pain last night. What can I do in the future to make sure my pet doesn’t experience pain after a surgery?
Rebecca, Virginia Beach, Virgina
Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to ask an animal whether he is in pain. However, when I perform any surgical procedure on a dog or cat, I assume that they might experience pain. Simply put, every time my skin has been cut, it has hurt. I don’t see why cats and dogs would be different.
Fortunately, almost every veterinarian I know has the same philosophy, and veterinary medicine has made great advances in managing postoperative pain in recent years. A number of medications and techniques exist to help ensure that pets don’t suffer after surgery. Most vets take care to ensure that the experience is as pleasant as possible for their patients.
That said, if your pet is scheduled to undergo surgery or a major dental procedure, I recommend that you ask your vet about the potential for pain, as well as what can be done to keep your pet comfortable. No veterinarian that I know would be hesitant to discuss the matter.