Is a pet suffering from pain or dysphoria? Heres how to tell the difference

2019-11-18
Heather Carter, BS, LVT, VTS (Anesthesia/Analgesia)

Anesthetist specialist shares her approach to differentiating pain from dysphoria in patients receiving opioids.

Differentiating between pain and dysphoria is key to understanding how to properly treat your veterinary patients. To an untrained eye, pain and dysphoria in patients receiving opioids can look similar, says Heather Carter, LVT, BS, VTS (Anesthesia, Analgesia), manager of operational excellence at specialty clinic Bush Veterinary Neurology Service, with locations in Georgia, Maryland and Virginia.

At this year's Atlantic Coast Veterinary Conference (ACVC), Carter shared with dvm360 that in order to differentiate between the two, it is important to understand what both terms mean, especially since patients with pain or dysphoria can both be vocal and seem inconsolable (don't want to be petted or offered food, etc.), she explained.

Dysphoria (unease) is the opposite of euphoria (comfortable, calm and relaxed), Carter explained. Pain on the other hand, is an uncomfortable sensation, Heather said.

In the video, Carter shares her recommended approach to help determine whether your patient has dysphoria or pain.