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3 veterinary pain myths busted

VettedVetted September 2019
Volume 114
Issue 9

From "young animals don't feel pain the same as adults" to "my Lab peters out after a short walk," Dr. Robin Downing sets the record straight.

Veterinarians' brains are stuffed with a million and one pieces of information directed at taking the best possible care of patients. Among that mass of intelligence there may even lurk a few stances, long held as truths, that simply aren't accurate. Fetch dvm360 conference speaker Robin Downing, DVM, DAAPM, DACVSMR, CVPP, CCRP, CVA, MS, is here to help you take a step back and question some beliefs you may have taken as gospel.

In the video below Dr. Downing lowers the boom on three theories about pain as they might appear over the course of pets' lives. Here's a summary.

Myth one: "Puppies and kittens don't feel pain the way adult animals do"

Dr. Downing says that, as veterinary students, some were taught that younger pets hadn't developed to an extent to experience pain the way adult patients would. She cautions that this idea is incorrect.

"Now what we know is if we violate the nervous system with such a profound pain experience that early on, we can actually damage [pets] for the rest of their lives," she says.

Dr. Downing adds that this approach may even lay the groundwork for chronic pain.

Myth two: "Shorter surgeries require less attention to pain relief"

Learn all you can about pet pain

The faces of chronic pain in the veterinary clinic.

How to manage acute on top of chronic pain in your veterinary patients.

Misconceptions about pet pain.

One school of thought proposes that patients undergoing so-called "commodity surgeries" (ovariectomies, castrations)-because the procedures are relatively short-need less concern for their level of pain. Dr. Downing calls that another whopper.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," she says.

Here she borrows from human medicine research, pointing out that lack of attention to pain can establish a path for future pain at the surgery site and more.

"What it also may do is set the stage that, if they need another surgery later in life, they may have a worse pain experience than they would if we had taken care of their pain well at the first surgery," Dr. Downing says.

Myth three: "Older pets just slow down"

Dr. Downing bristles at this one: "I'm here to tell you that old age is not a disease!"

She urges practitioners to listen for key client observations that may indicate a pet in pain. Prompts might include, "My dog used to be able to walk for miles, but now tires out more quickly," or "My cat used to sit in the window to watch birds, but not so much anymore." Dr. Downing says these are red flags that should precipitate additional investigation.

"When we hear those kinds of cues, we in the veterinary profession have an obligation to ask some more questions," she says.

Watch the video for much more from Dr. Downing.

You. Can. Do. This!

At Fetch dvm360 conference, we're the support system you need. With every conference this year, we intend to nurture your mind (meaning quality CE for days) while also encouraging you to take stock of your physical and emotional health. Register now.

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