Well, I just returned home from my latest brain vacation (BV). For some a BV means taking a break from all things stressful, but for me it means letting my nerdy brain run free amongst the diagnostics, literature reviews, and facts. The focus of this BV was Current Techniques in Canine Pain Management, which was held by the Canine Rehabilitation Institute in Snowmass Village, Colorado at an amazing altitude of 9500 feet. Once this lowlander got used to the diuretic and lung crushing effects such altitude has on a human, I was in my brain’s equivalent of Disneyland.
It was wonderful being with other canine rehabilitation therapists (Vets and PTs) for three days learning cutting edge information about lasers and canine pain management. I could write for hours about NSAIDs, supplements, and the physiology of pain, especially the tripartite synapse, but since I still have your full attention I think it’s best to discuss a few common misconceptions about canine pain. Here are just a few:
- “My dog isn’t in pain because it isn’t limping and doesn’t cry out”. Dog’s only cry out when a pain is acute, they don’t cry out when the pain is chronic. Dogs are masters at “sucking it up” because they don’t want to be the weakest link within the pack.
- “My dog is JUST old”. It is true that the natural aging process causes decreases in muscle mass and energy, but old dogs like to play and they maintain a desire to play to the very end. Painful dogs slow down because they are conserving their energy. This is how chronic pain becomes debilitating. Ever heard something like this before? “My 12 year old dog is acting like a puppy again.” Or “I haven’t seen her do that in 5 years”. Hmmmm?
- “Animals don’t feel pain like we do”. They feel pain worse! This is due to increased anxiety that accompanies their pain. For example, they don’t know that their cast will come off in two weeks. Dogs have been known to chew toes, paw, etc. off to alleviate their pain.
- “There is nothing we can do”. This is true for many veterinarians, but not specialists. There is now an International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management comprised of Vets and PTs that focus on pain management and new interventions.
- “It’s an NSAID and Tramadol or nothing”. This used to be true, but now there are acupuncture, trigger point therapy, myofascial release, mobilizations, TENS, E-stim, ultrasound, and laser interventions available for your dog. See a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist near you for more information.
- “Post-Op pain is beneficial”. Post-op pain causes an increased sensitivity to future pain. Only 24% of randomly chosen veterinarians actually use post- operative pain medication with their patients.
- “Spays and neuters don’t need pain medications”. See above. Again, an acute consideration with possible long-term implications.
- “Pain medication in old or debilitated animals is dangerous”. Once a complete senior blood panel has been completed the opposite is actually true. Considering that pain prevents normal functions like eating, drinking, bowel elimination, breathing, and ambulating, pain management preserves quality of life. Medicating any animal with a one-size-fits-all approach is very dangerous, but having an experienced veterinarian on your team who understands how to vary medications, their doses and intervals is paramount.
As a dog owner sitting in this course my “aha” moment came in the shape of a single power point slide which said, “We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.” And as a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist participating in this course I felt empowered by sitting with so many others who are striving to see canine issues more clearly. Awareness fuels the journey out of the box and after this class the lid feels a little lighter.
If you are interested in knowing more about pain management or how canine rehabilitation might help your canine companion please join my yahoo-group (poodles-in-motion) and start a discussion. The current discussion is “What is a safe jump height for my 17” kleinpudel, 16” or 22”?