The evolution of pain management in pets brings better options for relief

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By Robin Downing, DVM, MS, DAAPM, DACVSMR, CVPP, CCRP

The prevention and treatment of pain in pets have changed significantly since Dr. Robin Downing entered the veterinary field more than three decades ago. It was once acceptable to use “pain” as a restraint strategy to limit a pet’s movement following surgery. Now we know pain control is essential for effective treatment, not only after surgery but in many situations. While pets experience various types of pain throughout their lifetime, pain management has advanced and better options are becoming the norm.

More than one way to approach pain management

The current data tell us pain is best managed from a multi-modal perspective. Another term for this
is “targeted” therapy. This means using different tools that complement one another to achieve a better outcome than we can achieve with a single-tool approach. Patients benefit when we make thoughtful decisions about which strategies work well together — what targets in the body we need to address
and how.

Remember the 3 Rs

With painful patients, even more so than any other patient population, the “3-Rs” absolutely apply.

  • Recheck
  • Reassess
  • Revise

Pain patients must be rechecked at regular intervals. In fact, the appointment for the next recheck should be made at the end of the current appointment because once the client pays the bill for today’s visit, they’re thinking about their next commitment. In their mind, the visit is over. In our practice, we schedule the next visit on everyone’s calendar before the current transaction is completed and the encounter ends.

Bringing relief to more pets

Success in chronic pain management depends upon effective communication between the veterinary team and the client. Everyone on the team has a moral obligation to support the client in any way they can to facilitate care. Veterinarians also have a moral obligation to advocate on behalf of beings who cannot advocate for themselves, and to work with clients toward the common goals of comfort and recovery for their pet. (We provide clients with educational handouts, our website, videos and an “information prescription” that guides them to accurate and up-to-date information.)

Better options for relief affect costs

As our diagnostic options have expanded, our ability to address animal pain has improved. There are many more tools available to assist pets in pain than ever before, and the options continue to multiply — as do the costs for comprehensive pain care. Consequently, pain management plans must be tailored to meet both the needs of the pet and budgetary needs of the family. Ongoing pain care requires creative balancing of treatment choices to achieve the best outcome with minimal patient compromise. Providing a clear pain management plan along with a payment option, can help pet owners prepare and budget for the most effective relief for the pet they love.

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This information is shared solely for your convenience. All statements are the sole opinions of Dr. Robin Downing. Neither Synchrony nor any of its affiliates, including CareCredit does not make any representations or warranties regarding this content.