Pain can be a useful thing to keep us out of danger and to make us rest when needed. For example burning yourself on a hot stove is a very handy reminder to move your hand away from a hot element. However pain becomes its own disease process when left untreated and can cause immense suffering and other physiological consequences. It is important we, as animal owners, learn to recognise pain and become educated in the different conditions that can cause pain in animals.
Click here to find out more about recognising pain.
Click here to find out more about painful conditions in animals.
Chronic Pain and Wind Up
Pain is processed in the brain. We feel pain because of this processing and only when conscious. That is why anaesthesia works. When unconscious we are not recognising pain. Pain is still there and we will feel the effects of our surgery as soon as we wake up though and that is where morphine can be our saviour! Apart from the brain, pain is also extensively processed in the spinal cord. At this point pain signals can be dulled down or heightened before being passed on to the brain for recognition. What happens in chronic pain, for example from arthritis, is that the spinal cord changes anatomically and physiologically to mean that pain signals are extra heightened. This condition is called Wind Up. The pain signal is literally “wound up” so that the animal becomes more sensitive to the pain that already exists, areas distant to the location of pain become painful and things that would not normally cause pain, such as touch and pressure, are registered as painful. Windup pain becomes super difficult to control. This is why pain, in all states, needs to be treated before windup and chronic pain can occur.
Pain is obviously a tremendously uncomfortable experience and leads to changes in emotions i.e. depression, aggression, anxiety. It also has some serious physiological consequences such as poor wound healing, muscle breakdown and weight loss and reduction in immunity. To read more click here.
At Acupet pain treatment is our foremost concern. We use a number of different modalities such as acupuncture and laser to aid pain relief where their application suits. However, the mainstay to the management of moderate to severe pain will generally include some sort of pharmaceutical agent. Remember you can’t tinker with treating pain. If it is there it needs to be stopped ASAP and pharmaceutical agents are fantastic in doing this. Of course the use of pharmaceutical agents such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories always comes with possible side effects and to ensure your companion is able to tolerate any drug given blood tests will be recommended to check kidney and liver function. This is particularly crucial in older animals who have a reduced ability to break down drugs given.
In many instances of mild to moderate pain it may be that pharmaceutical agents are only required until the effects of acupuncture and/or laser accumulate to a degree that pharmaceuticals can be weaned off. But for many animals who suffer severe debilitating arthritis or spinal pain, using a number of different pain relieving techniques is essential. We call this multi-modal pain management.
Other more natural products that have a proven ability to help manage pain include nutraceuticals ( omega 3, glucosamine, chondroitin) and many herbal products ( e.g. turmeric). Where suitable there use will be discussed for your companion.
We will work with you to manage your companion’s pain. For many conditions, such as the pain from cancer and arthritis, pain is dynamic and ever changing. Ongoing communication about their pain levels and regular check ups will be required to keep their pain under control.