2 tools to manage patient pain (Not what you think!)


That's your veterinary team and a good client questionnaire. Hear all about it from pain management specialist Dr. Michael Petty.

Heart rate and blood pressure play a role in pain assessment, of course, but two other tools readily available at your practice are even more important. (Shutterstock)

Click on the image above for more on pain and death.Veterinary clients can get up in arms if they assume you're trying to make money off of pets' discomfort with pharmaceuticals, supplements, diagnostics and veterinary visits. But you know the truth: You care about pain management because you care about the patient's well-being. You're not padding the bill here folks.

Michael Petty, DVM, CCVP, CCRT, gave a sobering perspective on pain in pets at a recent CVC session about the business of pain management: “Dogs and cats live in the moment-they think that what is happening to them right now is forever. So I think it's more pressing for us to help these animals get out of pain since we can't explain to them, ‘It'll be better in a couple of days.'”

How to get your name in the pain game

Want to make pain management a specialty in your practice? Dr. Petty suggests starting with training in physical rehabilitation, acupuncture and myofascial trigger points. Myofascial trigger points? Yes. Dr. Petty says that if he were starting all over in pain management in practice, the first thing he would do is to take a course such as those offered by Rick Wall, DVM, CCRP, DAAPM, CMTPT.

“It's eye-opening in terms of diagnostics,” says Dr. Petty.

Another possibility is certification through the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management-available to both veterinarians and technicians in your practice.

Once you're revved up to alleviate pain in pets wherever it stands, Dr. Petty says you'll need referrals. We're not talking referrals from other veterinarians, but client referrals. When owners of a pet that has had chronic pain comes away from your practice with a now much more comfortable pet, ask them to talk about your practice with friends and family with pets facing similar problems.

In his presentation, Dr. Petty discussed two ways to better detect pain in practice.

1. Receptionists and technicians: The best pain scouts

Pain is apparent in your veterinary patients once you know what to look for. In this audio clip, Dr. Petty explains the importance of all team members being on the same page in identifying and alleviating pain and the special role that receptionists and technicians play in that.

2. Client questionnaires: The proof is in the progress

A form with good questions for clients is vital to identifying pain in pets. In this clip, hear Dr. Petty explains why, what question you should never ask a client and how to handle clients if they seem to be oblivious to their pets' pain:

Which form should you use? Dr. Petty says that if you use AAHA's form for dogs or cats, ignore the vocalizing part. Dogs and cats don't vocalize when they're in chronic pain.

He recommends trying the Canine Brief Pain Inventory for dogs and the Feline Musculoskeletal Pain Index for cats. Hear how you can customize your own form from resources that are out there:

An added value of those questionnaires is they can be used as tools for measurement on how the patient is improving and showing your clients your effectiveness:

To be trite, the proof is in the pudding. If you show your clients you're making a difference, they'll keep coming back-and your patients will be happier and healthier for it.

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