Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue

If I have a headache-Pain Management

by User Not Found | Jul 08, 2012

This morning I had a headache.  After wandering around the kitchen, stumbling through making coffee, I began to prepare breakfast for the 4 dogs currently staying at Katie’s Camp Canine.  On a normal morning I would start with a Good Morning Campers! And chat with them as I prepared breakfast, but today I was scowling and mumbling to myself.  To the dogs, it looked like any other normal morning and they had no idea I was acting this way because of pain.  After breakfast I got dressed and shuffled along the isles of the local drug store looking for something, anything to relieve my pain.  When I arrived at the register to check out, the woman wished me a nice day and I cheerfully replied “Thanks!  You too.”  There is no blood test for “pain” it’s completely subjective, can come and go and affects us all in different ways.  Gus made a trip to the emergency vet once, tail wagging and a big old stupid smile on his face, only to return home and grumble to himself as he lay under the kitchen table.  It’s no secret that this is a major concern of the public when you can find several isles devoted solely to pain relief in just about any store you go in to these days and veterinary medicine is no exception.  But how the heck do we sift through all that?  I have a hard enough time deciding between capsules, tablets, coated, not-coated, night-time formula, 12-hour, fast-acting, it’s enough to make your head hurt.

 

The best weapon we have to help our dogs is you.  Dogs are notoriously good at hiding pain but a diligent dog owner knows the minute that their loyal companion has even the slightest change in behavior and behavioral changes are one of the most common indicators of pain in dogs.  People can complain and whine about that horrific paper cut, but animals don’t have “that” ability to communicate with us so watching them for changes in routine, personality and behavior is our best source of information.  Is your dog quiet, restless, unusually clingy, whining, licking, chewing at part of the body, flattening his ears against his head?   Is she snapping or growling at visitors or dogs she’s played with every day for years?  I’m not saying all behavior changes are a medical issue and before you go searching Google for a suspected brain tumor, at least consider pain as a possible cause.  

 

There are essentially two types of pain, acute or chronic.  Acute is pretty straight-forward, wham, you stub your toe, trauma or injury and you have yourself some acute pain.  Acute pain has less of a gray area as it comes on with the trauma, injury or surgery and then usually resolves when you heal.  Chronic pain develops more slowly and is usually associated with illness and/or age, from surgical pain, osteoarthritis, intervertebral disc disease or even cancer. Perhaps your vet has given your dog the “all clear” but with the added behavioral change history, they may be apt to take another look.  There are a host of new medications, procedures and techniques that can help manage pain these days and I’ve found in my experience and research that attacking it from several levels is just plain smart.  Just like people, all pets have different tolerance levels of pain so each situation should be tailored specifically for that patient.

 

Medications.  Medications are usually our first line of defense that goes along with supportive care and prevention of pain in the first place.  Just like human food, it’s not appropriate to give human medications to dogs.  A vet can advise you in cases where it might be helpful, but never go out on your own.  Understand that pain is a good thing, in a sense, in that it keeps us from doing further damage and that inflammation is actually a healing process that is built in to our bodies naturally….amazing really.  However too much or chronic inflammation can cause more damage.  Commonly, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) like Rimadyl (generic Carprofen) are used, in conjunction with pain killers/sedatives, like Tramadol (common), Gabapentin, fentanyl or morphine pain patches, and the list goes on and on.  It’s far too much to go into here, but working with your vet, you can experiment with the right type of medications and the range of doses available.  The goal is to find the best combination that suits your pet’s specific needs.           

 

Non-drug pain management

Recently, techniques like laser therapy have spilled into the veterinary world.  Laser therapy actually started for use on wound healing, but is now used for treatment for lick granulomas (don’t worry, another day) to arthritis pain.  This technique involves the use of a laser to stimulate blood flow to the area of injury or pain.  This essentially decreases the nerve sensitivity and speeds up healing by reducing inflammation so essentially pain too, since pain is caused by inflammation….wow what a vicious circle.  Laser therapy is still being explored to find out what it works and doesn’t work on in humans and in pets.  It’s a popular addition to an arthritis pain management plan but keep in mind what may work for one dog, may not work for another.  Typically about 70% of dogs have a good response while 30% have no response at all.

 

Accupuncture scares me, I’m not gonna lie.  The thought of stabbing needles into my precious pet makes me completely uneasy.  In my research I have stumbled across a fair amount of information on acupuncture.  Heck, there’s even an “American Academy of Veterinary Accupuncture”.  Can it work?  Maybe.  Will it hurt?  Probably not.  The real downside to treatments like this and laser therapy are the cost.  If I have one piece of advice on this, it’s to make sure you let the actual acupuncture be performed by a vet, who is certified in acupuncture.  It seems like if you are going to be stabbing needles into my dog, you should have a good grasp on canine anatomy.  A friend of mine tried it on their 9 year old lab, after five sessions, it seemed to help, however he had been treated a couple of times over the last six months with steroids.  So was this a coincidence or was the acupuncture actually helping?  The good news was, whatever made the lab feel better was leading to regular exercise and that had strengthened his muscles and improved his mobility.

 

The list of options for pain management go on and on.  There are special beds, ice packs, warm compresses, T-touch, physical therapy, holistic therapies and more.  Just be patient and be observant.  It may take some time to figure out what your pet is trying to tell you and how to help him, but your dog’s day to day activities and how they change or stay the same are important and helpful.  I’d write more, but I have a headache.

Cheers!

Katie

Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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