Pain Management Should Involve Entire Team:

2022 Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats

Lakewood, Col. (March 25, 2022) - Effective pain management is an essential component of compassionate care in canine and feline veterinary medicine. As our understanding of different treatment modalities continues to evolve, the American Animal Hospital Association has updated its recommendations to reflect the most current research and best practices relating to pain management.

The 2022 AAHA Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats build upon prior pillars of pain management to recognize the importance of shifting reactive interventions to a proactive, pre-emptive, and multimodal strategy involving the entire practice team and, importantly, pet owners.

“Helping both pet owners and veterinary team members identify the often-subtle signs of chronic pain is one of the main focal points of these new guidelines,” said AAHA Chief Medical Officer Jessica Vogelsang, DVM. “This requires a great deal of client education and communication, which means all of the team needs to be on the same page, tackling this together both in clinic and at home.”

The guidelines identify four guiding principles of pain assessment to use in a clinic’s Pain Assessment Toolbox:

  • A shared, team-based approach to pain management
  • Making pain assessment part of every physical examination
  • Understanding the importance of behavioral observation in diagnosing pain
  • Understanding how pain assessment is very different between cats and dogs

The importance of pain assessment tools

A systematic approach to making repeatable pain assessments is a critical skill for all veterinary team members. The guidelines include a discussion of available assessment methods for dogs and cats that identify the ease of use, purpose, validity of the tool, and whether they are used for acute or chronic pain. The guidelines also include flow diagrams that help team members identify pre-visit opportunities for owners to gather information to better identify signs of pain at home.

A tiered approach to selecting treatments

The guidelines include a tiered decision tree that presents pain management options prioritized by evidence of effectiveness in both acute and chronic cases. Recognizing that the best approach is multi-modal, the decision tree includes both pharmacologic and non-pharmacological modalities in each tier.

The unique needs of cats

The tools, observations, examination techniques, and treatments for pain in cats are very different from those in dogs. While AAHA updated these guidelines to include both dogs and cats, AAHA is grateful for the contributions and input of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) to this update and is proud to announce the AAFP has formally endorsed these guidelines.

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The 2022 AAHA Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats are supported by generous educational grants from Arthrex Vet Systems, Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., Elanco Animal Health, and Zoetis.


About AAHA

Since 1933, the American Animal Hospital Association has been the only organization to accredit veterinary hospitals throughout the United States and Canada according to more than 900 standards directly correlated to high-quality medicine and compassionate care. Accreditation in veterinary medicine is voluntary. The AAHA-accredited logo is the best way to know a practice has been evaluated by a third-party. Look for the AAHA logo or visit