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There has been a significant change in the practice of medicine in the past decade in the field of pain management. For many years the concept was to wait until a patient (human or animal) displayed signs of pain before pain medications were administered. But all of that has changed. We now know that pain can be prevented or at least greatly reduced if pain medications are given before and/or during surgical procedures to prevent pain from developing after surgery.
There are many methods that can be utilized to prevent pain. Local anesthetics can be administered topically or by injection to a specific site. Anesthetics can also be injected in the area of nerves that supply a larger region of the body. This is called regional anesthesia. Epidurals are injections of pain-killing medications such as morphine along the spinal cord to anesthetize larger areas of the body such as the hind legs.
There are many pain-killing drugs that can be administered by injection to control pain. Your New England Animal Medical Center veterinarian is well versed in the advantages of each type of pain-relieving medication (analgesics). These drugs can be administered by a single injection or mixed into an intravenous fluid drip so that a tiny amount is administered steadily over a longer time. This technique is known as a CRI (continuous rate infusion). We utilize special pumps that are designed to deliver a specific amount of fluid and analgesics over a 12 to 24-hour span.
There are also pain “patches” that can be applied directly to the skin. These patches deliver a tiny amount of pain medication steadily over a few days. They are very effective in some surgical situations and provide another option for pain control.
When patients are discharged from the hospital there are oral pain medications that can be prescribed if indicated. It is important that pet owners never give aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, or similar medication to their pet without checking with their veterinarian. Some pain medications designed for human use are very toxic to pets or may interact adversely with other medications your veterinarian has prescribed.