It's not always easy to know when your cat is in pain. You may notice behavioral changes such as irritability or withdrawal or more obvious signs such as favoring a limb. Physical signs may include dilated pupils or a change in heart rate. Cat pain management requires careful attention because as a species, they do not easily metabolize the available drugs.
Pain in Cats
Acute pain in cats can be caused by accident or injury. Acute pain usually improves within three to four days. Chronic pain is associated with progressive diseases such as arthritis. Other types of pain include cancer pain and neuropathic pain, which results from damage to nerves.
Veterinarians use a pain scale to rate an animal's pain. It is a questionnaire that analyzes age, gender, cause of pain, body region and pain intensity. Although somewhat subjective, pain scales are a helpful tool in assessing pain.
Treating Pain in Cats
Cats do not produce sufficient liver enzymes to metabolize many non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (aspirin and ketoprofen, for example), so the drugs linger much longer in the bloodstream. These drugs should only be used under strict veterinary supervision.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is particularly dangerous to cats and must not used as a pain treatment.
Prescription pain medications are available to treat cat pain. Butorphanol is effective but may cause sedation in cats. It is available as an injection or tablet.
Corticosteroids are sometimes used to treat inflammation and pain, but newer drugs with fewer side effects are now supplanting their use.
As an adjunct to traditional veterinary care, acupuncture is gaining favor as a method of pain treatment. According to Acupuncture.com, there are more than150,000 veterinary acupuncturists practicing today.
Keep your cat as comfortable as possible. Be sure food and water bowls are easy to reach. If your home is more than one level, provide a litter box on each floor to reduce stair climbing. Consider a new litter box with lower sides.
A heated pet bed may help to ease arthritis pain. Indulge your cat's desire for quiet and isolation by providing a "cat cave," a quiet, sheltered area for rest and recuperation.
Stress can exacerbate pain symptoms; keep her environment as secure as possible. Quietly interact with and massage your cat daily. His ability to groom may be reduced as a result of his pain, so gently brush or comb him regularly as well.