Pet Connection

Pain Gains

What we know about managing pain in pets

Andrews McMeel Syndication

What is pain? It’s sensory awareness of injury or illness, of course, but there’s more to it. Pain is unique to each individual. Factors that influence pain perception include genetics, the degree of injury and past history of pain.

Two types of pain affect pets. Most of us have experienced acute pain, from stubbing a toe to breaking a bone. Acute pain is protective, warning us to pull back from that hot fire, for instance. Animals experience acute pain, too. It usually goes away with time or treatment.

Chronic pain persists for longer than the normal healing period and is considered a distinct disease of the central nervous system. In essence, it’s pain that has lasted beyond its usefulness or that lingers after an injury has healed. Sometimes it’s the result of an ongoing physical problem, such as osteoarthritis. Other conditions that can cause chronic pain in pets include cancer, glaucoma, interstitial cystitis, pancreatitis and stomatitis.

Both physically and emotionally, chronic pain has a damaging effect on a dog or cat’s well-being. Animals with chronic pain may change their movement or behavior in an attempt to limit discomfort. When they move less or move in abnormal ways, they become stiff, and pain increases. They may also reduce their interactions with humans or other animals because being touched causes pain. That puts a kink in their social relationships with family members.

One of the problems with chronic pain is that it often goes unrecognized. Pet pain isn’t always easy to assess. You may notice that your dog or cat is sensitive in certain areas or has odd behaviors, but those things don’t always make an appearance during a veterinary exam. What to bring to your veterinarian’s attention, with videos, if possible:

-- decreased grooming habits in cats

-- intensively licking specific areas

-- changes in posture when sitting or sleeping

-- difficulty or slowness standing up or lying down

-- breaking housetraining

-- reluctance to be petted or groomed

-- reluctance to go down stairs

-- difficulty jumping on or off furniture

-- poor appetite or nausea

-- lethargy

-- any behavior that is unusual for that animal

A number of medications and techniques can aid in pain treatment and prevention. Especially for chronic pain, early recognition of the problem is key. Multimodal therapy incorporating nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, injectable disease-modifying osteoarthritis drugs such as Adequan, diet, nutritional supplements with anti-inflammatory effects, weight loss, massage, laser, and acupuncture can all benefit pets in pain. Multimodal treatment attacks pain through multiple pathways in the body, with the goal of directly or indirectly reducing inflammation that causes pain.

The best way to prevent chronic pain from developing is to treat acute pain promptly and aggressively. For acute pain related to surgical recovery, long-acting extended-release drugs are available for dogs and cats, providing post-operative pain relief for 24 to 72 hours. Some pain-relief medications for dogs and cats are chewable, making them easier to give. Others can be compounded into tasty liquids.

Dogs can take NSAIDs relatively safely for long periods, but no NSAIDs are approved for long-term use in cats. Cats are more sensitive than dogs to the side effects of drugs such as NSAIDs because they lack certain enzymes needed by the liver to safely break down the drugs.

Chronic pain develops over a long period, and treating it successfully takes time. With your veterinarian, set specific goals for managing your pet’s pain. It may be four to six weeks before you begin to see a response, but with good management, your pet can be moving well and feeling good again.


Ease carsickness

with these steps

Q: We’re moving at the end of the summer, and it’s a 12-hour drive to our new home. My dog gets carsick or pants a lot even on short rides. How can I make the trip as stress-free as possible?

A: You can take several steps to help your dog have a better experience for both short trips and your upcoming move.

Start now to desensitize and counter-condition your dog to car travel. Place him in the car where he would normally ride. Since he experiences carsickness, reward with praise or a favorite toy instead of a food treat, and take him out right away. Repeat until he’s comfortable getting in the car.

Next, start the engine while he’s in the car. That’s all; don’t actually go anywhere. As above, reward and then take him out. Practice until he’s comfortable. Follow with backing out of the garage and pulling back in and eventually going around the block or some other short distance. Always pair each step with a reward to create a positive association with riding in the car.

Wearing a ThunderShirt or similar snug-fitting garment, use of a canine pheromone spray such as Adaptil in the carrier, and playing music created for dogs may also help to ease anxiety and reduce the likelihood of carsickness. Consider a car seat or carrier that allows your dog to see out the window. Fresh air and a view of the horizon can help to minimize motion sickness. Withhold meals in the morning so he’s riding on an empty stomach, but give small amounts of water throughout the day. Feed him when you stop for the night.

Finally, ask your veterinarian about an anti-nausea medication called Cerenia. It has been proven in clinical trials to help dogs with motion sickness. -- Mikkel Becker

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Fans mourn

Grumpy Cat

-- Social media star Grumpy Cat, known for a sourpuss expression, died last month after developing complications from a urinary tract infection. “Urinary tract infections of the bladder are common, especially in older and female cats,” says Dr. Drew Weigner, a feline specialist who practices in Atlanta. “In themselves they’re not serious or difficult to treat, but (they) can infect the kidneys if not treated properly or promptly. They can be a symptom of more serious underlying disease such as kidney disease or diabetes, and should be investigated further, especially if recurrent.” Signs of a UTI include difficult or painful urination, increased frequency of urination, crying out during urination, blood in the urine, urinating outside the litter box and frequently licking the urogenital area.

-- Analysis by Oregon State University researchers found that the relative risk of cancer recurrence is reduced by 60% in dogs whose tumors are completely removed. A review of published veterinary studies showed a recurrence rate of less than 10% when a soft tissue sarcoma was removed in its entirety, versus a 33% recurrence rate when tumor cells remained after surgery. “That’s what most veterinarians, including myself, have thought, but this makes it more official,” says Milan Milovancev, associate professor of small animal surgery at Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine and the study’s lead author. “Now we can say, ‘Here’s the data.’” The findings were published in the journal Veterinary and Comparative Oncology.

-- According to the University of California, Davis' Veterinary Genetics Lab, the distinctive “pointed” coat pattern of Siamese cats is caused by a form of selective albinism that suppresses melanin production based on temperature. The activating enzyme tyrosinase explains the ombre appearance of the Siamese, with a sandy-colored abdomen (the warmest part of the body) that darkens around the extremities, including ear tips and paws. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.

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