New veterinary pain management guidelines released

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Canine, feline guidelines from AAHA, AAFP emphasize team members role in pain prevention, assessment and treatment.

Advances in companion animal pain management have spurred the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) to update the pain management guidelines for dogs and cats they developed in 2007.

The 2015 guidelines differ from the older version in several ways, according to AAHA and the AAFP:

> The first sections contain general concepts designed to set the stage for the remaining, more specific content.

> The new guidelines discuss the importance of integrated pain management that does not rely strictly on analgesic drugs.

> Because pain assessment in animals has become more scientifically grounded in recent years, the guidelines include descriptions of various clinically validated instruments for scoring pain in both dogs and cats.

> A section on feline degenerative joint disease has been added due to increased awareness of this condition over the last few years.

> The list of published references includes numerous recent studies published within the last three years.

According to AAHA and the AAFP, effective pain management can reduce disease morbidity, facilitate recovery and enhance quality of life. The guidelines are particularly helpful for busy practitioners because they consolidate current recommendations and insights from experts in pain management, they say.

The guidelines also emphasize that pain management in clinical practice is a team effort, with the pet owner functioning as an integral part of the team. All healthcare team members should have a defined role in the practice's approach to providing compassionate care to its patients, the organizations say.

“The management of pain is a crucial component in every veterinary practice,” says Mark Epstein, DVM, DABVP (canine and feline), CVPP, co-chair of the team that worked on the guidelines, in a joint release from the two organizations. “Practices should be committed to educating the entire healthcare team about prevention, recognition, assessment and treatment of pain. Alleviating pain is not only a professional obligation but also a key contributor to successful case outcomes and enhancement of the veterinarian-client-patient relationship.”

Ilona Rodan, DVM, DABVP (feline), is the other co-chair. “Pain management requires a continuum of care that includes anticipation, early intervention and evaluation of response for every individual patient,” she says. “A team-oriented approach, which also includes the owner, is essential for maximizing the recognition, prevention and treatment of pain for our patients.”

To access the 2015 AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats, visit aaha.org.

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