I love my profession. After 30 years in practice I still find it to be challenging, exciting and fun. No two patients are ever alike, no two days are ever the same, and best of all I get to learn something new every day. To some people that might not sound especially fascinating, but I am what is referred to as (mostly by my instructors) as a “Continuing Education Junkie.” I honestly am happier to attend a grueling week- long C.E. course about Behavioral Medicine, or Feline Internal Medicine and Surgery, or even Canine Chronic Diarrhea than I am to go on vacation. REALITY CHECK: Well okay, if the vacation is a two week cruise with my beloved Gary and I can have all the spa appointments I want, I might be tempted by the cruise…just out of consideration for his welfare you understand.
During the past 5 years, my focus for learning has been on Pain Management for cats and dogs. When I was doing my post graduate studies for my DVM degree, we were taught the following fallacies:
- Animals do not suffer from pain, or if they do it is to a far lesser extent than humans do and so doesn’t need to be treated.
- It is GOOD for animals to be in pain after a traumatic injury or major surgery because the pain will keep them quiet so they won’t cause themselves more harm.
- Somehow the screams of pain, the thrashing around in their cages and the attempts to literally chew off painful limbs were supposed to be a good thing!
- Or more commonly the quiet, vacant stares, continuous panting, loss of appetite, urinating and defecating on themselves because the pain of moving was too great were helping them somehow.
Thankfully those misconceptions have been relegated to the Dark Ages of veterinary medicine. Pain is now the 5th vital sign for every patient we evaluate. Temperature, pulse, respiration, and blood pressure make up the other vital signs. Evaluating pain in animals, who cannot speak to describe their discomfort as human patients are able to do, rely heavily on the skill of the observer/examiner to detect nuances of patient behavior, reaction to touch, and loss of normal function. If I can leave you with one message today it would be:
Crying or vocalizing is the LEAST common sign of pain in animals.
People cry out in pain. Our physicians ask us to describe our pain and to rate our level of discomfort on a scale of 1-10. The human expression of pain is largely verbal.
Animals have evolved to hide their pain so they don’t become easy prey for the next guy up the food chain. The absence of crying has nothing to do with the degree of pain an animal is suffering.
My journey toward understanding pain and pain management has been enormously rewarding. My goal is to become certified by the International Association of Veterinary Pain Management . During the past 7 months I have achieved certification in canine medical massage and veterinary medical acupuncture. In May I completed the Pain Management for Veterinary Practitioners course at the NAVC Post Graduate Institute.
AWC has always practiced a high level of pain recognition and control for the patients under our care. With the new skills, patient services, and cutting edge education from specialists in this field of study we will be launching our new program, Passion to Stop Their Pain. This program will take a multimodal approach to pain control including:
Comprehensive Physical Medicine Evaluation
Patient lifestyle/environmental evaluation
When Will My Pet Need Pain Management Care?
There are many times in life when pain control is needed. Whether it is the acute pain of an injury, post operative pain, chronic inflammatory conditions such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease or Feline Cystitis, arthritis, back pain, cancer pain, nerve damage, or intervertebral disc disease pain management is essential for patient comfort and quality of life.
Pets are our most loyal friends. They are with us through thick and thin and love us without judgment no matter what . They deserve a life free of pain and free of suffering.
I will be hosting a series of educational talks at AWC and other venues about the recognition and control of animal pain. Check our website for dates and times. If we have your email on file, we will email you notices. If you are a part of an organization which would like a presentation, please call Sue Maki, Hospital Manager to make arrangements.