Many exotic animals will instinctively hide their pain as a survival mechanism. In the past, this led to incorrect assumptions about the ability of these pets to feel pain. Now that we understand more about how animals feel pain, we can better recognize and manage it. Pain management is a priority for our doctors, and we utilize multi-modal therapy to maximize the comfort of our patients.
Understanding pain is an important part of pain management. There are two different types of pain in pets - acute pain and chronic pain.
Acute pain comes on suddenly as a result of an injury, surgery, inflammation, or infection. It can be extremely uncomfortable for your pet and it may limit his or her mobility. The good news is that it is usually temporary, and goes away when the condition that caused it is treated. We offer pain management with every surgical procedure, for both the comfort of the patient, and to speed the recovery process. This may involve preoperative injections, so that the patient is comfortable upon waking, and postoperative pain medications to ensure a restful night's sleep. When deemed necessary by the doctor, pain medication for the next few days is also included.
Chronic pain is, by definition, pain that lasts longer than two weeks. It can result from acute pain that goes untreated, or it can develop more slowly. Common sources of chronic pain are osteoarthritis, dental disease, and cancer. Animals that suffer from chronic pain often have subtle clinical signs that collectively make them appear older than they really are. The longer the pain goes on, the harder it is to control, so we always want to treat this pain early.
Signs that your pet might be in pain include:
- Depression and/or inactivity
- Rising slowly or "collapsing" to lie down
- Walking with a stiff gait, especially after getting up
- Standing or sitting in unusual positions
- Inappropriate elimination
- Inappropriate vocalizations
- Constantly licking or chewing at a particular part of the body
- Acting funny and out of character, either aggressively or submissively
- Unable to get comfortable (constantly changes positions to find the most comfortable position)
- Develops new and inappropriate behavior like chewing on objects (may indicate a dental issue).