Pain Management Protocols
Tremendous advances have been made in understanding that animals feel pain in similar ways as humans. At BSVES, we understand that our clients want their pets to be comfortable and as pain-free as possible. Pain can play a role in a pet’s ability to recover from injury or illness and is also a major factor in a pet’s overall quality of life.
Managing Post-Operative or Acute Pain
BSVES patients are often recovering from surgical procedures or medical illnesses or are suffering from injuries that may be causing some pain. Numerous medications are available for the treatment of post-operative and acute pain. A multi-modal strategy directed both at pain perception and inflammation is often involved in effective pain management.
Controlling acute pain can require high doses of medications, so careful monitoring is necessary to allow for patient comfort without risking unwanted side effects. As a result, medications are often given in a carefully titrated, continuous-rate-infusion (CRI), which we adjust for the patient’s specific needs and can decrease as the experienced pain begins to resolve. Doses of the medications can be minimized by combining different types of drugs, such as local or "numbing" anesthetics, anti-inflammatories, narcotics, and sedatives for reducing anxiety.
Treating Chronic Pain
Many conditions can cause chronic pain in pets, the most common being chronic orthopedic conditions such as arthritis. Development of a treatment plan must include consideration of multiple issues:
- A thorough evaluation of the source of the pain may determine that a cure or greatly improved condition could be achieved through surgical or medical treatment.
- All pain medications carry a risk of negative side effects. The intensity of pain should be the determining factor on the level of drug therapy instituted.
- To minimize side effects, each patient’s risk factors should be determined, including any liver or kidney dysfunction. This is exceptionally important when non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications may be used. Blood work is frequently recommended before starting therapy.
Our doctors frequently choose a combination of medications determined in a stepwise fashion and tailored to the pet’s reaction to medication and his or her specific needs. Many pet owners report a significant improvement in the pet’s quality of life once the pet starts medication.
Using Pre-emptive Pain Management Strategies
When pain is caused by surgery or an injury, the nervous system is sensitized, which can lead to an amplification of pain sensation. Use of local anesthetics to numb the surgical area can prevent the nervous system from becoming sensitized and can decrease the amount of medication needed for pain following surgery. The local anesthetic can be injected at the surgical site, or around the nerve responsible for transmitting the pain signal from the surgical site, or around the spinal cord (using an epidural injection) to block large areas of pain sensation from reaching the brain. Using local anesthetics is a frequent part of the multi-modal strategy we use to ensure our patients are comfortable and stress-free.
If you have any questions about our pain management protocol, please speak with the knowledgeable staff and doctors of BSVES.