In this article we will review the most current and effective pain treatments for pets!
Pets can get injured, or develop arthritis as they get older.
Pet owners may not notice subtle signs of pain such as behavior changes or slowing down.
I often hear pet owners say that they didn’t think their limping pet was truly painful because they never cried out.
Animals can be very stoic and try to hide their pain.
To me, as a veterinarian, limping is a hallmark sign of pain. Many pets do not cry or vocalize unless they are in extreme pain.
If your pets shows any of these signs, an evaluation with a veterinarian is recommended. Ideally a vet like myself who has an interest in pain management and offers pain management modalities.
Rehabilitation therapy, laser therapy and acupuncture are some examples of the most common pain treatments for pets.
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PAIN TREATMENT: REHABILITATION THERAPY
Rehabilitation encompasses many of the best pain treatments for pets! Similar to physical therapy in humans, rehab is individually tailored to treat a wide variety of conditions. It can also be used to increase fitness.
A specialized, comprehensive exam will direct the specific treatment plan to rehabilitate your pet. Possible goals include decreasing pain, enhancing function, increasing rates of recovery, and improving quality of life.
Rehab can be beneficial for patients of any age, species and activity level. This includes puppies, old dogs, post-operative patients, canine athletes, and working dogs. It can address a wide range of neurological and orthopedic diagnoses. Rehab is often used for cats, birds, and other animals after orthopedic surgeries or traumatic injuries.
Rehabilitation therapy often focuses on manual therapy like soft tissue manipulation, massage, joint mobilizations, and stretching. Additionally the patient will learn therapeutic exercises that will target specific muscle groups. This will accomplish functional strengthening, and improved balance, coordination, and proprioception. Acupuncture is another modality commonly used during rehabilitation.
PAIN TREATMENT: LASER THERAPY
Veterinary laser therapy is an innovative treatment that has gained popularity in recent years. Because it is unquestionably one of the best new pain treatments for pets!
Therapeutic lasers use light waves of a specific wavelength to cause photobiomodulation, or the alteration of cellular and tissue physiology. Light absorbed by cellular components stimulates electrons and activates cells to promote growth, proliferation, migration, and repair.
The main clinical benefits of laser use in pets include decreased inflammation, decreased pain, and improved wound healing.
During a treatment session, the handheld laser wand is slowly moved back and forth over the damaged tissue. This produces a warm, pleasant sensation that most pets seem to enjoy and find relaxing.
Sessions usually last 15 to 30 minutes, with the number of sessions and frequency of treatments dependent on the injury. Chronic conditions may be treated weekly, whereas surgical incisions and open wounds often require daily treatment.
Although you can buy handheld units for use at home, the affordable ones have very low power. This means it takes a very long time (hours) to deliver a therapeutic dose. I advise getting laser therapy for your pet at a hospital that has a class 3 or 4 laser. These devices can deliver an effective, therapeutic dose in a reasonable amount of time (several minutes).
PAIN TREATMENT: PEMF THERAPY
Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) is an FDA approved, non-pharmaceutical and highly effective treatment. PEMF systems have been in use for over 30 years on many species of animals! This technology uses pulsing magnetic fields, developed by pulsing a small amount of battery current through coils of wire. This initiates normal biological cellular reactions that result in improved circulation and provide pain relief.
PEMF therapy is delivered in the hospital through a PEMF bed. Your pet lays on this bed while receiving acupuncture or manual therapy. You can also purchase PEMF devices for use at home. Check out the links below for purchasing information:
RESPOND SYSTEMS PEMF PRODUCTS – If you order, be sure to tell them Dr. Meghan Barrett sent you!
PAIN TREATMENT: NUTRITION AND WEIGHT MANAGEMENT
Nutrition plays a critical role in managing pain in animals. Our pets need to eat something each and every day, and that provides a unique way to influence overall health. For painful pets, the most important nutritional step is normalizing body composition (body fat percentage). All other pain management strategies work more effectively once body composition is normalized. Likewise, this important step helps to relieve pain and slow OA progression because of a lessened impact on joints. Schedule a consult with Dr. Barrett about a nutritional plan for your pet to achieve their ideal weight. This may include adjusting portion sizes or adding in certain fibers to help your pet feel satisfied while dieting. It also may include choosing a joint-support diet, or adding certain nutraceuticals or supplements.
PAIN TREATMENT: NUTRACEUTICALS AND SUPPLEMENTS
Omega-3 fatty acids are another amazing pain treatment for pets! There is clear evidence that high levels of omega-3 fatty acids (triglyceride EPA) can have these effects on arthritic joints:
1) Decreasing inflammation in and around the joint
2) Downregulating the genes responsible for the degradation enzymes that lead to cartilage damage
It is important to understand that flax seed is not an effective source of omega-3’s for dogs. Be sure to get a triglyceride formulation rather than an esterized formulation. The esterized form of omega-3 fatty acids is less expensive, but it is the triglyceride form that is bioavailable.
Microlactin is a milk protein extracted from the milk of hyper-immunized cows. It acts by a very selective mechanism to block cytokines, which contribute to the perpetuation of inflammation. It modifies the biological response to inflammation and changes the signals that “call” neutrophils to sites of inflammation. Thus, neutrophils cannot then release the destructive enzymes that perpetuate the inflammatory process. It exhibits much the same efficacy as NSAIDs. However it employs a different mechanism, so it does not share the same adverse event profile!
Attention is increasingly turning to green-lipped mussel (GLM) extracts as a pain treatment for pets. These can decrease inflammation and pain associated with arthritis. They contain a unique combination of anti-inflammatory fatty acids, sphingolipids, diterpenes, sesquiterpenes, saponins, and antioxidants! Identifying the overall mechanisms relating to each of these active compounds is the subject of ongoing research. It is certainly possible this combination of ingredients is working synergistically to protect the cartilage and joints!
PAIN TREATMENT: PAW GRIP PRODUCTS
There are some great paw grip products available nowadays that can reduce slips and falls. A common problem for pets with arthritis is slipping on floors like hardwood and tile. You can also modify their living space by placing yoga mats or carpet runners around the house to provide traction.
Sticky paw pads can be placed on your pets paws and will stay on for several days. They are thin stickers made of the same material as kinesio-tape with grip material on the bottom.
Toenail grips can be placed on your pets nails and will give them added traction as they navigate slippery flooring.
Yoga mats are easy to move around and clean. They can also be cut into smaller pieces to add traction on stairs!