Pain Management for TPLO
Pain management is a topic that we take very seriously at TopDog animal health & rehabilitation. Whether your dog has not had surgery yet or is weeks out in the recovery process, it is important to ask the question…Is my dog in pain?
To date there is still a HUGE misunderstanding or inability on the part of both veterinarians and pet owners when it comes to evaluating pain in dogs. 9 times out of 10 when I ask a client if they think their dog is in pain their answer is always NO. They usually say that their dog does not show any signs of pain, such as crying or whimpering.
Yet, if I then put the dog on pain medication, the client notices a huge change in overall disposition of the dog. They “seem” happier or in the case of dogs who have had a tplo they will use the surgery leg more often or with more confidence.
The point I am trying to make is that we need to change our overall perception when it comes to evaluating pain in dogs and at the same time question whether or not we are either not giving them pain medication for a long enough period of time or not choosing the right pain medications.
We have to remember that evolution defined dogs to be predators as well as pack animals. Therefore, we must understand that dogs have been conditioned to “mask” or “hide” pain very well. In the wild, an injured dog is going to do everything in its power to not show weakness to its pack or other potential predators. Dogs very rarely will verbally display signs of pain. Yet if you look closely they do show signs of pain in many other ways such as: sleeping more, slower to rise, hesitation to do what was once a normal activity such as jumping up on a bed or climbing stairs, or even something as simple as they are not putting full weight on a leg. The list can go on and on.
No one knows your dog as well as you do, therefore if you pick up on any slight changes in overall disposition or activity, make sure you ask yourself ….Is my dog in pain?
Most of the pain medications on the market for dogs are very safe and therefore a lot of times I give my patients the benefit of the doubt and treat for pain. Often if there is any question of pain we will run a course of pain meds for a weeks period of time to see if there is any change in overall disposition or change in use of an injured limb. If there is no change then we will change course and reevaluate.
In addition, it is important to understand that a NSAID or non-steriodal anti-inflammatory is really not a true pain medication. Yes it will relieve discomfort due to inflammation, but it really is not a “pain” medication. Therefore, you may need to ask your veterinarian about other options such as opioids, like tramadol, or other neurologic pain meds such as gabapentin.
Lastly, when it comes to pain management for the tplo patient make sure that you veterinarian prescribes these medications for an appropriate period of time. Many times one week of pain management is not enough, therefore discuss this with you veterinarian.
Making sure your dog is comfortable is an important part of the recovery process so once again ask yourself…Is my dog in pain?