There has been great progress in veterinary pain management over the past 10-15 years. Today, the most widely accepted approach to managing pain is to prescribe aggressive medications that affect multiple pain pathways to make our pets feel more comfortable. While this approach may ultimately lead to the need for more medications, the doses and side effects of each prescribed medication will be decreased.

When prescribing such medications, it is essential for the veterinarian to consider the cause of the pain.  For example, a pet that has a painful abdomen and is vomiting should not be prescribed a steroid or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug due to the increased risk of gastrointestinal ulceration.  Pets with neurologic pain or chronic pain related to arthritis may benefit from medications that act on the brain as well as the source of the pain to better alleviate discomfort.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Deramaxx, Rimadyl, Previcox, Meloxicam, and Onsior, are wonderful medications that provide good pain control and reduce inflammation.  These drugs act similarly to ibuprofen, aspirin or Vioxx in human medicine. Please remember that human medications should not be administered to your pets without your veterinarian’s approval.

It is important to monitor your pets for gastrointestinal side effects when giving these medications.  Some side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite or dark-tarry stool (melena).  If you notice any of these signs, you should stop giving your pet this medication and contact your veterinarian immediately.

The advent of medications such as Tramadol and Gabapentin and our better understanding of medications such as Fentanyl, Methadone, Ketamine, and Buprenorphine have resulted in a more effective transition from drugs administered in the hospital to oral medications continued at home without a decline in pain management efficacy. Any of these medications given at higher doses can affect pets’ cardiovascular, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems. Therefore, appropriate combinations of drugs prescribed at lower doses enable pets to feel comfortable while minimizing signs of nausea, decreased appetite, diarrhea and weakness.

Pain control is like running in a race.  It is always easier to start fast and lead the pack at your pace than to start at the back and try to catch up. With pain management, we like to administer medications before your pet becomes painful so we can try to avoid the need for additional medications to “catch up” to the pain.  Treating pain in its earliest stages allows medications to be given less frequently and at lower doses.

Whether your pet is undergoing a straightforward spay or neuter or a complex fracture repair, it is appropriate for the patient to receive effective pain medications.  If you have further questions about pain management options for your pets, please feel free to contact Newtown Veterinary Specialists at 203-270-VETS (8387).