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How to Help Your Beloved Pet When They Are In Chronic Pain

By Dr. Karen Whala, Co-founder of CodaPet

As pet owners, we all want our furry friends to be happy and healthy. Unfortunately, just like humans, pets can experience chronic pain that can greatly affect their quality of life. Whether it’s due to arthritis, cancer, or other conditions, chronic pain can be a difficult thing to manage. If your pet is suffering and cannot be managed with pain relief, humane euthanasia is an option to relieve your friend of unrelenting pain.   Meanwhile, there are things you can do to help your beloved pet when they are in chronic pain.

The first step in helping your pet is recognizing the signs of chronic pain.  Many caring pet owners do not realize that our dogs and cats do not demonstrate pain like we humans do.  Unlike humans, signs of pain is much more subtle.  This is owed in part to their survival, as both a predator and prey, not to show signs of weakness and consequently fall prey to hungry animals bigger and stronger than them.  Many dogs and cats are very adept at hiding even the most excruciating pain from even their owners.  Sometimes the only way to know if a behavior change, a change in posture or change in routine is due to chronic pain, is to give them effective pain relief and see if there is a response.   Something as subtle as missing the litterbox or no longer climbing to the top of their kitty tower can be strongly suggestive signs of arthritic pain in cats.  In dogs, symptoms of pain can be as subtle as as sleeping more or preferring to walk on the grass rather than the sidewalk when available.   Other signs of chronic pain can include changes in behavior such as decreased appetite, lethargy, and reluctance to move or play. Changes in posture when sleeping, panting more (dogs) without an obvious cause, restlessness and an inability to get comfortable and even chronic and obsessive  forearm licking which is a type of self-soothing behavior. Unlike people, it is important to know that vocalization is an uncommon response to chronic pain in dogs and cats.

If you are unsure if your pet is in pain, it is recommended to share your concerns and observations with your regular veterinarian.  They will be able to diagnose the underlying condition causing the pain and recommend appropriate treatment options. This may include medication, physical therapy, surgery or a combination of the three.

In addition to medical treatment, there are several things you can do at home to help manage your pet’s chronic pain. One of the most important things is providing a comfortable environment for your pet. This may include a soft bed or cushioned mat to lie on, as well as easy access to food, water, and litter boxes.

Another important aspect of managing chronic pain in pets is exercise. While it may seem counterintuitive, regular exercise can actually help reduce pain and stiffness in pets with conditions like arthritis as well as help maintain muscle tone. However, it’s important to work with your veterinarian to develop an exercise plan that is safe and appropriate for your pet’s condition.

There are also several alternative therapies that may be helpful in managing chronic pain in pets. These can include acupuncture, massage therapy, and even CBD oil. However, it’s important to discuss these options with your veterinarian before trying them.

Finally, it’s important to provide emotional support for your pet when they are in chronic pain. This may include spending extra time with them, providing plenty of affection and attention, and engaging in activities that they enjoy.

Managing chronic pain in pets can be a challenging task. However, by working closely with your veterinarian and providing a comfortable environment for your pet, you can help reduce their pain and improve their quality of life.

Author:  Dr. Karen Whala, Co-founder of CodaPet, a petcare startup focused on end of life care.  CodaPet recently launched in Kansas City and Columbus.

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