A primer on post-operative pain management for pets

Posted by Tasha McNerney on May 30 2013

Pain management has become an important specialty area in veterinary medicine just as it has in human medicine. Pet parents want the best for our family members and that includes top-of-the-line treatments for pain management.

It was once thought that animals did not experience pain in the same way that humans do. But research supports that if a procedure is thought to be painful to us, it will also be painful to our fuzzy friends as well, even though they may go to great lengths to hide it from us. Therefore proper pain management must be offered to all patients. In addition to pain medications (analgesics), many clinics are now offering complementary treatments like physical rehabilitation, acupuncture and laser therapy to treat pet pain.

Physical rehabilitation can be a helpful tool for animals who are recovering from surgery for orthopedic or neurological problems. Rehab can help pets recover more quickly, increase mobility and flexibility, improve endurance and agility and reduce the need for additional pain medications. After surgery, rehabilitation techniques – including cold laser therapy – can be used to reduce inflammation almost immediately. Veterinary professionals with an interest in rehabilitation can obtain a special certification. If you think your pet could benefit from physical rehabilitation, consult one of the veterinary rehabilitation professionals in your area.

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Laser therapy is a noninvasive procedure that uses light to stimulate cells and increase blood circulation. At the correct laser wavelength, pain signals are reduced and nerve sensitivity decreases. Laser therapy can also be used in the immediate post-operative term to reduce inflammation, edema and promote healing.

Post operative pain management

Whenever your pet undergoes a surgical procedure, one of the most important concerns you will have as a pet parent is: “Will my pet be in pain?” Post-operative pain management is a serious but sometimes overlooked area of the surgical procedure. If you are in the planning stages of an elective surgical procedure for your pet, make sure you ask the following questions:

1. What is the anticipated level of pain associated with this procedure? (Mild? Severe?)

2. Will my pet be given post-operative analgesics (pain medicines)?

3. Will my pet need any physical rehabilitation to help during the recovery process?

4. What analgesics will be sent home with my pet?

Another way you can ensure your pet is receiving the most comprehensive pain management plan is to look for a practice that has an IVAPM (International Veterinary Pain Management) member on staff. The IVAPM is an organization that seeks to educate and promote pain management for animals worldwide. The IVAPM also provides continuing education in the area of pain recognition and treatment. IVAPM members can work towards certification in the management of animal pain. After they obtain this certification, they will be known as a CVPP or certified veterinary pain practitioner. To find a CVPP or IVAPM member in your area, visit the IVAPM website.

Pain management is an important aspect of any surgical procedure. Together with your veterinarian, you can make your pet as comfortable as possible in the post-operative period.

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