Chronic Pain Management
Most of the time, people can easily recognize acute pain in animals who are yelping, whining, groaning or limping, in the situation of obvious injury or after surgery. However, the subtle behavioral changes associated with chronic pain is commonly mistaken or misunderstood as "getting old" or "slowing down". Pain is a disease that can be treated and managed, unfortunately, it seemed to be the most commonly unrecognized, untreated, or undertreated disease. There is an excellent article on the website of International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management addressing the common subtle signs of dogs in pain. Some of these signs could be applicable to cats as well.
Chronic pain management involves identification of the source and the intensity of the pain, evaluation of animals' physical and environmental condition, and treatment of the pain by using multimodal approach. Multimodal approach involves multiple pain medications to tackle different pain pathways, nutritional supplements, and adjunct therapies like massage and acupuncture. Continuous and open communication along with regular assessment would be crucial in order to ensure patients responding to the treatment positively. With a dedicated family and a customized pain management plan, many pets can have a better quality of life with an improved mobility or even a renewed interest in life!
What to expect
During chronic pain management consultation, Dr. Ma will review your pet's medical records and perform a thorough physical exam of your pet. She would listen in order to learn your expectation and commitment in performing treatments and assessment at home. She will evaluate your home setting and make suggestions to ensure your pet can still carry on the routine without difficulty. At home situation, it would be much easier for Dr. Ma to evaluate whether the animal is in pain since the animal is at the most familiar environment without or with minimal secretion of cortisol (stress hormone) to mask the pain. If indicated, Dr. Ma will also provide you tools on how to monitor pet's quality of life, discuss with you about end-of-life care plan, and provide emotional support.
Dr. Ma will arrive in normal casual clothing (no lab coat or scrubs) to make the visit as easy and low-key as possible. If your pet can potentially be aggressive towards strangers, please give notice to Dr. Ma ahead of time and she will discuss with you what should be done to prepare the home visit appointment.
Chronic pain management consultation usually takes 2-3 hours.