In recent years, veterinarians have made great progress in understanding how cats feel pain and the best ways to manage that pain. Many cats will instinctively hide their pain as a survival mechanism which in the past led to incorrect assumptions about the ability of cats to feel pain. Because we now understand more about how cats feel pain, we know how to recognize it and manage it.
Pain management has become an important issue in veterinary medicine. The American Animal Hospital Association along with the American Association of Feline Practitioners recently released the AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Cats. These guidelines show that pain management helps improve the recovery process, whether from illness, surgery or injury. Because it reduces stress and increases a sense of well being, pain management may even help your cat live longer.
Understanding pain is an important part of pain management. There are two different types of pain in cats - acute pain and chronic pain.
Acute pain comes on suddenly as a result of an injury, surgery, inflammation or infection. It can be extremely uncomfortable for your cat and it may limit her mobility. The good news is that it's usually temporary and goes away when the condition that causes it is treated with effective pain medication. We offer pain management with every surgical procedure for both the comfort of the patient, and to speed the recovery process. This may involve a preoperative injection so that the patient is comfortable upon waking, as well as ensuring a restful night's sleep at home. When deemed necessary by the doctor, medication for the next few days is also administered.
Chronic pain is by definition pain that lasts longer than two weeks. It can result from acute pain that goes untreated or it can develop more slowly. Common sources of chronic pain are osteoarthritis, dental disease and cancer. Cats that suffer from chronic pain often have subtle clinical signs that collectively make them appear older than they really are. And the longer the pain goes on, the harder it is to control so we always want to treat this pain early.
Signs that your cat might be in pain include:
- Hiding, depression, or not eating
- Spends more time sleeping and is less agile
- Trouble rising, going up/down stairs, or getting to usual perching spots
- Walking with a stiff gait, limping or trembling
- Standing or sitting in unusual positions
- Accidents outside of the litter box
- Meowing differently than normal
- Constantly licking or chewing at a particular part of the body
- Acting funny and out of character, either aggressively, submissively, or fearful
- Unable to get comfortable (constantly changes positions to find the most comfortable position)
- Spends more time sleeping and less time grooming
When pain is correctly assessed and treated, patients respond with increased vigor and a sense of well being that owners recognize and appreciate.