LONG TERM PAIN MANAGEMENT IN DOGS

None of us wants our pets’ pain to go uncontrolled. Sometimes it is difficult to recognize when our pets are in pain as they are adept at hiding it from us. Some signs of pain to watch for include difficulty rising from a lying down position, stiffness once up, decreased exercise tolerance, loss of muscle tone, reluctance to use stairs, and difficulty jumping on the bed or into the car. Very seldom will our pets actually cry out in pain.

If your pet is exhibiting any of the above signs a physical exam is the first step in assessing and then controlling the pain. X-rays are often the next step in localizing pain as well as determining the severity of arthritis so that a treatment plan can be formulated. The following is an outline of different methods for controlling your pets’ pain.

Glucosamine/MSM/Chondroitin:

These three supplements in combination act as natural anti-inflammatories and stimulate the production of joint cushioning agents. Not every pet responds the same and it is important to use the product for 30 days to see if your pet responds positively. At Family Pet Clinic we use Glycoflex III for dogs, which has consistently provided our patients with relief. There are many reputable over the counter products that work as well, however, none are regulated by the FDA so be careful what you buy. Please note, many pet food companies have incorporated these supplements into their dog food, however, the levels in these foods are not sufficient enough to have a significant impact on our pets’ pain and these pets still need additional glucosamine/MSM/chondroitin.

Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS):

This group of drugs is one of the most powerful and consistent pain relievers for dogs.Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Previcoxx, and Metacam are all common NSAIDS. These drugs work by interfering with the inflammatory process. The adverse affects of this group are related to kidney and liver function as well as gastrointestinal disturbance. We can reduce the likelihood of side effects by monitoring liver and kidney function every six months with blood tests. At Family Pet Clinic we recommend using them at the lowest effective level which may be every day, every other day, once a day, twice a day, or only when strenuous exercise such as a trip to the beach is expected. The cost of NSAIDS has recently been reduced by the introduction of a generic Rimadyl (Vetprofen). The use of Aspirin to control pain should only be used in an emergency situation as it can cause severe gastrointestinal ulceration, prolonged bleeding times and is generally not strong enough to provide relief to most dogs.

Tramadol:

Tramadol is an inexpensive narcotic pain reliever with only one side effect– sleepiness. Tramadol is most commonly used in combination with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) and its usage helps to reduce the dosage of NSAID needed.

Laser Therapy:

Laser therapy is a newer approach to pain control in dogs, however, it has been used in human medicine for years. Many dogs respond to laser therapy even when other modes of pain control fail. The energy from the laser is absorbed by the cells leading to an anti-inflammatory effect and enabling healing of damaged tissues to accelerate. Lasers also inhibit transmission of pain along nerves within the body. Laser therapy is similar to Adequan in that an initial induction period of six treatments is needed followed by maintenance treatments every 3-4 weeks. Laser therapy is also a form of pain control free of side effects and can be performed on your awake pet with you right at their side.

Adequan:

Adequan is an injectable form of glucosamine that is given in the muscle or under the skin. It has been scientifically proven to aid dogs with arthritic pain. Initially, Adequan is given twice weekly for four weeks and then once every 3-4 weeks. The best part of Adequan is its lack of side effects.

Gabapentin:

Gabapentin was originally used as a seizure medication for dogs. Its anti-seizure properties were unsuccessful, however, its’ ability to control pain became obvious. Gabapentin’s main side effect is sleepiness and it needs about 30 days before pain relief can be seen in most patients.

Alternative Treatments:

Acupuncture, Chiropractic, and Underwater treadmill therapy are other venues that can aid in long-term pain management for dogs. We do not perform these procedures at Family Pet Clinic but can refer you to a veterinarian or rehabilitation facility for these procedures.

In Summary:

We can use the above treatment options alone or in combination to provide your pet with the most complete pain relief possible. Once we localize the source of the pain and assess its severity we can formulate a treatment plan that can be adjusted as your pet ages and his needs change. With all these available options your pet can age gracefully and continue to enjoy the things they did as a younger dog.