PAIN ASSESSMENT AND CONTROL
Even when undergoing relatively routine procedures such as neutering the assessment
of pain and its control are very important for your dog.
What is pain?
Pain is a physical phenomenon and can be classified by degree, mild, moderate,
intense or substantial and also by duration, acute which is normally of short
duration, e.g. following an operation, or chronic which is long lasting such
as occurs in a dog with degenerative joint disease (arthritis).
How do I know when my dog is in pain?
Pain and its assessment can be very subjective, different dogs will respond
in different ways. Among the most common signs are failure to respond in the
normal pattern. Periodic or continuous whimpering or crying, continuous attention
to a surgical site, panting, sitting in an abnormal position, shivering and
sometimes running a temperature. In addition to these there are lots of other
signs of pain which trained veterinary personnel will pick up.
Is there any difference between pain and discomfort?
Discomfort is also a physical phenomenon and may simply be thought of as a
milder form of pain. Sometimes discomfort may not really involve any pain at
all but merely inconvenience or irritation, for example chewing gum stuck between
the pads. However the borderline between discomfort and pain is not clear cut.
For example imagine that the pad has been bandaged and the inconvenience has
caused the dog to lick, with the result that the bandage becomes tight. Pain
may then start to occur.
Is distress part of pain?
Distress is a psychological phenomenon. It can be associated with both pain
and discomfort. On the other hand it can be entirely distinct as occurs when
a bitch is separated from her puppies.
It is not unusual to confuse distress and pain. For example a dog returns
home after surgery but with strict instructions not to go upstairs. In consequence
there is continuous or intermittent whining because he has been shut in the
kitchen when he usually sleeps in the bedroom. This is probably due to distress
at being separated rather than pain or discomfort which have probably been taken
care of with the medication received post operatively.
My dog has chronic back pain and is on painkillers continuously. Are there
any side effects?
Just as with people the chronic use of analgesics can result in certain side
effects particularly effecting the gastro intestinal tract (vomiting and diarrhea).
However there are modern licensed products for use in the dog which are very
effective and in the majority of cases are free from side effects at the recommended
doses. Any unusual reactions should immediately be reported to your veterinarian.
Pain control in dogs is very similar to that in ourselves, what suits one
sometimes does not suit another.
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