When you take your pet to the vet with a condition that is painful, your pet may be given one or two of a number of drugs that relieve pain and reduce inflammation. At times, you may wonder why the vet has decided your pet needs pain relief, as he/she may not be displaying the signs of pain that you expect, such as whimpering or not eating. The truth is, pets do not exhibit pain in the same way as humans and for the most part, they have a survival instinct that causes them to hide pain as much as possible. This is because in the wild, if animals show obvious signs of pain, they will become an easy target to their predators. Medications that may be used for pet pain relief include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) provide pain relief by localizing in the areas of inflammation and reducing inflammation. As inflammation causes pain and discomfort, these drugs are very effective. They may also be used long term for conditions such as arthritis. They are generally safe drugs but can cause vomiting and/or diarrhea, so should be given with or after food. They should be used in caution in pets with liver or kidney problems, so your vet may suggest a blood test if these problems are suspected. Some commonly used veterinary NSAIDs are carprofen, meloxicam and firocoxib. NSAIDs should not be used with other NSAIDs or with steroids, and human NSAIDs should not be used in animals without consulting a veterinarian first.
- Opioids such as morphine and similar drugs are generally administered when the animal is in the hospital under veterinary supervision. They are strong pain relief drugs which are usually not dispensed for use at home, as they can be drugs of addiction in humans. Opioid derivatives such as Tramadol may be dispensed for dosing at home in some cases.
- Steroids provide pain relief as they have potent anti-inflammatory action. These drugs have side effects, especially with long term use, and for this reason they are usually a last resort for pain relief.
Your vet may also recommend other measures for reducing dog or cat pain, such as rest, heat or cold pack application, physiotherapy, acupuncture and trigger point therapy.
Was your pet ever on pain relief medications? Did you notice any side effects? Tell us the story in the comment!