Our pets feel pain! As we all know, pain can come from many places in the body. Pain may come from infected teeth or gums, pancreatic problems, kidney problems, spinal arthritis, degenerative joint disease of the hips, knee injuries or basically a serious problem just about anywhere in the body. Our understanding of pain in pets has made great strides over the past few decades. Most pets have extremely high pain tolerance but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel it – it just means they tolerate it. With all the love our pets shower on us, we sure want to do what we can to make their lives pleasant.
The first step in helping relieve our pets is finding out where it hurts. One of the old jokes about veterinary medicine – “animals can’t tell you where it hurts” is really no joke. Finding out if and where your pet hurts can be a real challenge. Some things like broken legs, are pretty easy to determine. On the other hand internal problems such as pancreatitis, can be quite difficult to diagnose. At Gentle Vets, our veterinarians have all the modern tools necessary to help determine where your pet hurts. These include digital radiography, blood chemistry analyzers, ultrasound, endoscopy, and very importantly, hands and eyes with over three decades of experience.
The treatments available to relieve pain in animals is highly varied. The first thing we want to is eliminate or prevent the source of the pain if possible. For example, luxating knee caps grade 2 and above can be pretty much counted on to develop varying degrees of arthritis in later years. If we correct the problem when your pet is young, we can probably prevent the arthritis and the resultant pain from ever developing. If we wait until your pet is in obvious pain, we won’t be able to reverse the arthritis although we can try to alleviate the pain. Dysplastic hips are also a significant source of pain. When your dog seems to be getting up slower, it isn’t just because he is getting older. It is because it hurts! Hip dysplasia is very common in large breed dogs. There are both preventative (TPO) and corrective surgeries (total hip replacement and femoral head ostectomy) to help your pet out of this problem. However, the sooner we act, the better the outcome will be. If we wait until your dog is 11 years old and hasn’t been moving well for a few years his leg muscles will waste away. This loss of muscle mass makes success from hip surgeries much less likely. Therefore it is better to act sooner rather than later. Medical therapy for bad hips or knees is usually a stop-gap measure with the expectation that we will eventually lose the battle. Corrective surgeries may make the underlying disease such as hip dysplasia irrelevant and your pet may live a completely full and normal life. Spinal arthritis is not usually surgically correctable and medical and life-style treatment may be our only option.
Dental disease is also a very common source of pain in pets. We all know how much a tooth ache can hurt. How about if we have several teeth which are aching? Many of our pets suffer from severe dental disease since dental hygiene is usually practiced poorly if at all. Therefore periodontal disease develops and abscesses form or teeth are fractured and roots exposed. The pain from tooth disease can be excruciating. Our pets are usually so loveable and tolerant they don’t whimper about pain that would keep us in bed or send us to an emergency room. However, you may notice your pet losing interest in foods, especially hard foods. With frequent visits for oral examinations we can prevent the oral disease from becoming so severe it puts our pets in severe discomfort. In order to perform a complete oral examination it is necessary to have your pet anesthetized. It is impossible to examine the area behind the last molars where periodontal disease is very common, without anesthesia. There are some non-veterinarians claiming to perform teeth cleaning without anesthesia. This is not only illegal, it is a great disservice to your pet as many of the worst problems are always hidden in areas inaccessible without anesthesia. You may think your pet’s mouth is healthy but since the hidden areas are still diseased, it is very likely still a source of severe pain. With modern anesthetics and proper training, anesthesia today is very safe. At Gentle Vets we take extensive precautions such as complete organ analysis, electrocardiograms, and chest radiographs to make sure your pet has a successful experience with anesthesia. It must be remembered that a diseased mouth is not just painful, it represents a very real risk to your pet’s life.
There are excellent medications to alleviate pain. At Gentle Vets we routinely use these medications to make your pet’s experience as pleasant as possible. Our name is our mantra – we try to be as Gentle as possible. The medications we use for pain include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents or NSAIDS, narcotic pain relievers, as well as local anesthetics.The narcotic pain relievers tend to cause respiratory abnormalities so remember that a dog panting after he comes home from surgery may just be panting from the pain reliever. These pain relievers also tend to cause constipation so if your pet is using these pain reliever for several days make sure they are having bowel movements. Never give at home medications such as Advil, ibuprofen or tylenol/acetaminophen to pets. In some cases a single tablet will be enough to kill a dog or cat! If you are worried about your pet being in pain, give us a call. We will get you a safe pain reliever. One of Gentle Vet’s core values is: “it is our duty to prevent unnecessary pain and suffering”.