September 25, 2016

September is Animal Pain Awareness Month

The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management honors Animal Pain Awareness Month every September, with information and resources for both pet owners and veterinary professionals.
By Jenina Pellegren
The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) honors Animal Pain Awareness Month every September, by providing both pet owners and veterinary professionals with information and resources.

Animals suffer from pain like humans do, and just like in humans, chronic pain can be subtle and difficult to treat. Unfortunately, pets cannot tell their owners when something is wrong. This is why a yearly campaign aims to inform and empower animals, so that they don’t suffer from chronic pain in silence.

Professionals are strongly encouraged to join the campaign and can visit IVAPM’s official website to learn how to incorporate pain management into their practice. “During this annual campaign, IVAPM will encourage various organizations (clinics, veterinarians, technicians, veterinary industry, publications, and veterinary educators) to raise public awareness about pain and pain management as it pertains to veterinary patients,” according to a statement on their website.

The American Animal Hospital Association agrees and suggests that pain management be a central part of any veterinary practice in addition to offering guidelines for the management of pain in dogs and cats. Alleviating pain can improve patient outcomes and enhance quality of life for animals. Pain management requires anticipation, early intervention, and evaluation from both pet owners and veterinarians. 

The majority of pain in animals is actually chronic and difficult to detect. The misconception many owners have is that if a dog or cat is in pain, it will cry out or whine to alert their owner. However, this is uncommon, making illnesses like arthritis and cancer appear to be signs of aging. The problem may actually be more serious than aging; even dental issues can lead to chronic pain and illness if unnoticed and untreated.

In a news release regarding Animal Pain Awareness Month, the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA) reinforces the importance of increasing awareness in pet owners. While pet owners may think decreased activity or slow movement is a sign of aging, this year’s campaign emphasizes that, “Aging is not a disease but pain is!” In cases of wild animals, the sick and injured are most vulnerable to predators. Hiding pain is a natural instinct inherited by companion and farm animals as well. Observing animals carefully and diligently can alert owners, early on, to signs of chronic pain.

Chronic pain usually lasts several weeks to months and persists beyond the expected healing time. A yearly wellness visit with a veterinarian is the best way to determine if a pet is suffering from chronic pain.

There are universal signs that owners can look for when trying to assess whether their pet might be suffering from chronic pain. These include: decreased activity and appetite, difficulty standing after lying down, or extreme weight loss. In dogs, unusually submissive behavior, anxious expression, and guarded behaviors may be indicative of chronic pain.

Cats can be especially good at hiding illnesses; owners should watch out for over grooming, hiding, changes in urinary or defecation habits, reluctance to jump off of or onto surfaces, and hissing or spitting.

Other universal signs include: changes in the pet’s posture, gait, appetite, and temperament. Owners should also look out for hostility, growling, or hissing in response to touch. Constant chewing, licking, or grooming may also be a sign of chronic pain and illness. Owners are advised to seek veterinary care right away if they suspect chronic pain in their pet.

For more information about pain management and pets, visit IVAPM.

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