“He Doesn’t Act Like He’s In Pain”
“He doesn’t act like he’s in pain”.
That’s a common phrase we hear in our exam rooms or in conversations with clients that have older pets. We also hear, “she sleeps more because she’s old”, “he doesn’t go on walks as much because he’s old”, or “he’s gotten grumpier in his old age”.
While some of that may be true, reality is dogs and cats are masters at hiding chronic pain. Whether that goes back generations when there habitat was more outside and they needed more of a survival instinct is up for debate. We do see different pain tolerances among different patients. But the average pet doesn’t show signs of chronic pain that we as humans feel would be typical signs.
So, sleeping more, walking less, being grumpy may well be “normal” signs of chronic pain for our pets.
Let’s look at what may be driving chronic pain and what we can do about it.
Arthritis is the most common cause of chronic pain in older pets. Arthritis can involve any joint, as well as, the spine. Arthritis is defined as the painful inflammation and stiffness of joints. Some pets develop arthritis from wear and tear over the years. Some pets will have arthritic joints from disease, such as, hip dysplasia. Some will have arthritis from injuries, for example, a torn cranial cruciate ligament. And there are other causes as well.
Chronic pain may result from other physical ailments: intervertebral disc disease, fibrotic muscle disease, or neuropathic pain.
The good news is, we have many ways to deal with chronic pain in your pet.
There are many different prescription medications that are available. The majority of the medicines are approved for dogs. There are some for cats but not as many. This is because cats are unable to tolerate many of these medications. Some of these drugs deal with inflammation and pain and some are for pain only. Sometimes, we will safely use a combination of these to help our patients feel and function better.
Neutraceuticals, supplements, and Chinese herbs are another way to relieve chronic pain. In fact, this is oftentimes the first line of defense. These supplements help nourish the joints and some have natural anti-inflammatory ability as well. There are a ton of these available but not all are reliable or effective. We suggest asking us for guidelines before starting any supplement.
Rehabilitation Therapy is a new and up-and-coming option for pets with chronic pain, injuries, and for post-op recovery. Rehab utilizes many of the same techniques that physical therapy does in humans. Manual therapy, massage, passive range of motion, and therapeutic exercises are often employed. We also use different modalities: underwater treadmill, LASER, land treadmill, and more. The response to therapy is remarkable and helps pets regain pain-free function. While many degenerative issues are not curable, Rehabilitation Therapy can decrease chronic pain, improve strength, improve neurological function, and promote healing. We even have access to acupuncture, platelet rich plasma, and stem cell therapy!
If any of this reminds you of your pet, contact us today!
Foster Animal Hospital and Paws In Motion Canine Rehabilitation Center: 704-786-0104
Foster Animal Clinic at Parkway Commons: 704-262-7387.
All the best,
Stephen E Foster, DVM, CCRT
Foster Animal Hospital, P.A.
Foster Animal Clinic at Parkway Commons
Paws In Motion Canine Rehabilitation Center
730 Concord Parkway North
Concord, NC 28027