2022 AAHA Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats

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Happy Whiskers and Wagging Tails: Treating Pets’ Pain with the AAHA Pain Management Guidelines

Pain management is an essential component of compassionate care in canine and feline medicine. With the approval of safe and effective nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents for veterinary use in the 1990s, analgesia became accessible as a therapeutic mainstay in postoperative settings and in cases of chronic pain. Although pain management is now an established component of therapy, the development of new analgesics and nonpharmacologic modalities makes this a still evolving facet of clinical practice. The AAHA Pain Management Guidelines help veterinary practitioners navigate the changing landscape of pain management and provide comprehensive recommendations to effectively assess and manage pain in animals.

Key points:


  • Prioritizes thorough pain assessment using a combination of behavioral, physiological, and contextual indicators.
  • Recommends regular pain evaluations to adjust treatment plans based on the evolving needs of the patient.

Multimodal Approach

  • Emphasizes a multimodal approach to pain management, combining pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions.
  • Encourages tailored treatment plans considering the type and severity of pain.

Pharmacological Interventions

  • Provides guidelines for the appropriate use of analgesic medications, including opioids, NSAIDs, and other drugs.
  • Stresses individualized dosing, monitoring for side effects, and considering the patient’s overall health.

Non-Pharmacological Interventions

  • Highlights the importance of non-pharmacological methods, such as physical therapy, acupuncture, and environmental modifications.
  • Recommends integrating these interventions for a holistic and effective pain management strategy.

Patient Monitoring

  • Advocates for regular patient monitoring to assess the effectiveness of pain management interventions.
  • Recommends adapting treatment plans based on the patient’s response and any emerging concerns.

Client Education

  • Promotes client education on recognizing signs of pain in their pets and understanding the importance of pain management.
  • Encourages open communication with pet owners about treatment options, potential side effects, and realistic expectations.

Team Training

  • Emphasizes the need for continuous staff training to stay updated on evolving pain management techniques and best practices.
  • Encourages a collaborative approach within the veterinary team to optimize pain care for patients.

These guidelines offer a comprehensive framework for veterinary professionals to deliver compassionate and effective pain management to improve the wellbeing and quality of life for pets in their care

* These guidelines are supported by generous educational grants from Arthrex Vet Systems, Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., Elanco, and Zoetis.

Expand Your Knowledge with the Pain Management Guidelines Certificate
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Expand Your Knowledge with the Pain Management Guidelines Certificate

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