Has your canine companion slowed down? Does your feline friend wince when you approach? Pain is an unfortunate reality of many age-related conditions, but that doesn’t mean your pet has to live in discomfort. Many pain medications provide only temporary relief. By adding alternative pain management techniques to our arsenal, our veterinary team can do a better job of controlling your pet’s pain.
Recognizing signs of pain
Pets don’t always clearly communicate their needs. Some signs of pain, like crying out or limping, are obvious, but behavioral shifts and personality changes may not be recognized as cries for help. Watch for these behaviors:
- Reluctance to walk up or down stairs
- Hesitation to get up or down from furniture
- Difficulty lying down
- Attempting to stand with the front legs first
- Shifting weight to the front legs when standing
- Reluctance to walk on slippery surfaces
- Decreased interaction with owners or other pets
- Aggression toward people or other pets
- Decreased appetite
- Difficulty sleeping at night
- Avoiding petting or other contact
- Having accidents in the house
Supplements and nutraceuticals
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often the first medications prescribed for animals in pain, but, while they are fairly safe for most pets, long-term use may have side effects. Our veterinary team uses supplements and nutraceuticals that can be added to, or replace, NSAID therapy to reduce inflammation and pain.
Cold lasers, or class IV lasers, use light energy to decrease pain and inflammation and promote tissue healing. Any type of pain or inflammation, including arthritis, surgical incisions, and traumatic injuries, can be treated with laser therapy, which promotes tissue healing in several ways:
- Release of endorphins
- Increased blood flow to tissues
- Activation of cells needed for tissue repair
- Increased cell division
Laser therapy is administered with a hand-held device that is simply moved back and forth over the inflamed or painful area. Most pets experience a warm, pleasant sensation and find the treatment relaxing. The length of each session will depend on the injury being treated, but most last 15 to 30 minutes. Although pets may experience some relief after the first session, multiple sessions are typically prescribed to gain the full benefit of therapy.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese therapy that improves circulation, decreases inflammation, and stimulates nerves. Treatment involves inserting small-gauge needles into the pet’s skin to stimulate specific points through which Qi—the body’s life energy—flows. Although acupuncture involves the use of needles, pets do not typically experience pain because the needles are small. Treatments are generally well-accepted by dogs and cats. In fact, they usually become relaxed and may even fall asleep.
Electroacupuncture is a variation of acupuncture, with attached electrodes that produce an electric current that stimulates nerve endings and muscles.
Pain and inflammation can lead to myofascial trigger points, which result in contracted, tense muscles that limit function and mobility. Dry needling involves inserting needles into these trigger points to relieve the pain of the contracting muscles. Pets often experience immediate muscle relaxation and increased mobility. After an appropriate course of treatment, pets recovering from debilitating injuries often regain full function. In pets with chronic degenerative joint disease, dry needling may help relax tightened muscles that have been compensating for diseased joints.
Massage therapy has many benefits:
- Improved blood flow
- Improved tissue healing
- Reduced muscle tension
- Reduced swelling
- Pain relief
- Increased mobility
Our trained veterinary professionals can determine the massage therapy that will most benefit your pet.
A pain management program should include therapeutic exercises that will increase range of motion, strength, and flexibility. Specific exercises can reduce recovery time from surgical procedures and injuries or relieve arthritis pain.
Pain affects each pet’s quality of life individually. A trained rehabilitation professional can evaluate your pet and determine the therapies that will best control her pain and return her to normal function.
Call us today if you have questions about controlling your pet’s pain.