An Introduction to Feline Pain Management

Detecting and assessing feline pain can be challenging for a pet owner. You cat's instinct for survival makes it rather shy about letting problems show; an animal in obvious pain or with any disability would be vulnerable to attack in the wild.

Pain management therapies for cats are fairly new in veterinary medicine not just because it has been so tricky to identify symptoms, but also because cats have a long history of sensitivity to the pain medicines we use for dogs and humans. However years of study and research have yielded new breakthroughs in feline pain relief. Here is some helpful information on pain management options for your cat:

Cat Pain Symptoms

Some symptoms like keeping weight off a leg in pain will be self-evident, but more subtle signs are what you should be alert for.

Be attentive for:

  • hunching the back with the head lowered, trembling or shaking.
  • lethargy (limited or no movement when your cat is awake)
  • stiffness, slow movement
  • agitation and anxiety

Be suspicious if your cat regularly lays or sits in abnormal or strange positions. Shallow, rapid breathing or panting can be a symptom of pain. You may see hiding behavior or attempts to escape with unusual aggression or a sudden disinterest in grooming. Symptoms can vary greatly in individual cats so rely on your special knowledge of your pet's personality to help you identify strange new behavior.

Two Types of Pain

Two types of pain concern us here; acute pain and chronic pain. Acute pain comes with trauma or surgery and chronic pain is associated with maladies such as arthritis or cancer. Appropriate treatment will usually depend on which type of pain the cat is suffering and on the intensity of this pain. Here are some of the most popular available options:

Analgesic Medications

Analgesics are pain relief medications, and the most widely used analgesics fall into these basic categories:

  • Opioid Painkillers include Morphine and related drugs like Oxymorphone, Tramadol and Hydromorphone. Careful dosage of these medicines is necessary to avoid serious or fatal side effects, but properly administered these drugs are safe and effective. Work closely with your vet while giving opiods.
  • Local anesthetics (Lidocaine, Bupivicaine) are used to block out pain during medical treatments like surgery.
  • Alpha 2 agonists are sedatives, usually given by injection and with other analgesics for short term pain relief.
  • NSAID'S (Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) reduce your cat's pain by reducing inflammation. While these medicines are prescribed for both acute and chronic pain they have been linked to serious side effects. These effects can be minimized or avoided with proper treatment. Consult closely with your vet about treatment with NSAID's.

Other Options for Feline Pain Relief

Homeopathic and other natural or holistic treatments are very popular for veterinary pain management and they are receiving recognition from many professionals and pet owners. You may want to look into Acupuncture, Chiropractic or other options like these. You can ask your vet to try such treatments, or refer you to professionals who provide them.