Letter to dvm360: Signs of chronic pain can appear similar to those of cognitive dysfunction

February 2, 2019

Dr. Michael Petty, DVM, CVPP, CVMA, CCRT, CAAPM, owns Arbor Pointe Veterinary Hospital, Canton, Michigan.

dvm360, dvm360 March 2019, Volume 50, Issue 3

Dr. Michael Petty likes the acronym DISHAA shared for signs of cognitive dysfunction in pets, but he also wants everyone to realize how similar those signs are to those of chronic pain.

I found the article by Julie Albright, MA, DVM, DACVB, “The Winter Years: Managing pets with cognitive dysfunction” (December 2018), very informative and helpful. As I read through the explanation of the DISHAA acronym, which was initially created by Gary Landsberg, DVM, DACVB, DECAWBM (companion animals), it made me realize how similar signs of cognitive issues are to chronic pain issues.

Disorientation is sometimes seen with dogs that have had long-standing pain issues, where the pain occupies their thoughts in every waking moment.

Interactions such as disinterest in games and social times are also diminished as the pet has to deal with chronic pain.

Sleep-wake cycle can be secondary to finding a comfortable position to sleep in, as any of us with an acute or chronic pain condition can attest to.

House soiling can occur as cats and dogs have trouble finding their owners to let them know they need to go out (in the case of dogs) and get to the litter box (in the case of cats).

Activity level changes for the obvious pain-related problems with ambulation and

Anxiety level changes as pets find themselves less able to join in on social interactions, use stairs, walk across slippery surfaces and so on.

The DISHAA acronym is great, but let's always keep chronic pain in the back of our minds as a possible contributor to these signs.

- Michael Petty, DVM, CVPP, CVMA, CCRT, CAAPM

Arbor Pointe Veterinary Hospital, Canton, Michigan

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