Many dogs and cats are plagued with chronic pain, which is defined as an ongoing and stressful state of discomfort that decreases their quality of life. And, unlike other pain types, which protect the body from further injury or stimulate healing, chronic pain is maladaptive—meaning the pain has no purpose.

At Meridian Veterinary Care, we take an integrative approach to chronic pain management using your pet’s natural physiology and internal processes to stimulate healing from within—thus promoting improved comfort and mobility, without traditional pain medications’ undesirable side effects. Here’s a closer look at chronic pain and options for minimizing and managing pet pain.

Common causes for chronic pain in pets

Chronic pain in pets is most commonly caused by osteoarthritis (i.e., arthritis), a degenerative inflammatory condition that can affect any joint. Arthritis affects both dogs and cats and is most often identified in older pets, although signs may appear in pets as young as 2 to 3 years of age.

Arthritis can occur on its own, or in connection with many orthopedic or neurological conditions, including:

  • Hip or elbow dysplasia
  • Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) rupture
  • Patellar luxation
  • Back injury (e.g., intervertebral disc disease [IVDD])
  • Bone fractures
  • Carpal or tarsal (i.e., wrist or ankle) injury
  • Surgical repair

Cancer pain is considered chronic pain, but requires specific therapies that we offer as part of integrative oncology.

Chronic pain consequences in pets

Chronic pain that is left untreated—usually because the owner does not notice it or dismisses the problem as “old age”—can result in significant, sometimes surprising changes in a pet’s daily life, including:

  • Behavior changes — Painful pets may become aggressive, reactive, agitated, withdrawn, or reluctant to exercise, jump, or climb stairs. 
  • Depression or anxiety — Reduced mobility can impair a pet’s ability to interact and maintain their normal routine, and they can feel anxious or frustrated.
  • Compensatory injuries — Pets who shift their body weight to relieve discomfort develop abnormal movement patterns, and create pain and weakness elsewhere in the body.
  • Impaired mobility — Reduced physical activity leads to muscle loss and increased stiffness, and worsens the pet’s condition.
  • Compromised health — Prolonged stress and increased stress hormones (i.e., cortisol) can decrease immunity and increase your pet’s risk for additional health issues.

To avoid these heartbreaking changes, schedule an appointment at Meridian Veterinary Care at your pet’s first pain indication, or any mobility or behavior change.

Help is on the way—chronic pain management for pets

Unlike traditional pain medications that may only mask the pain, our integrative approach includes a customized combination of therapies and techniques to achieve the following goals: 

  • Provide pain relief
  • Slow disease progression
  • Improve and encourage mobility 
  • Promote tissue healing or regeneration

Because chronic pain is managed—not cured—treatment plans are often adjusted to ensure pets stay as comfortable as possible. With close monitoring and regular communication with your Meridian Veterinary Care veterinarian, your pet can enjoy improved range-of-motion and wellbeing through a combination of the following services:

  • Nutrition — Many popular pet foods are pro-inflammatory, and may contribute to arthritis pain. Additionally, excessive calorie consumption and pet obesity increase the demand on your pet’s joints, restricting physical activity because of the pain. Our veterinarians can provide specific pet food recommendations, design a safe weight-loss plan, and suggest effective supplements (e.g., glucosamine, chondroitin, omega-3 fatty acids) to reduce pain and promote mobility.
  • Manual therapies — Hands-on therapies at Meridian Veterinary Care enhance circulation and blood flow to restricted or injured areas, improve bone and joint alignment, and release soft tissue tension. We perform recognizable services, such as acupuncture and chiropractic adjustment, as well as veterinary orthopedic manipulation (VOM), a gentle technology that restores neuronal (i.e., nerve) communication in areas disrupted by chronic pain. VOM is particularly advantageous for pets with back pain when used with acupuncture and laser therapy.
  • Therapeutic modalities Our therapeutic technologies harness the power of light and sound to heal pets. We perform these non-invasive treatments as outpatient appointments:
    • Shockwave therapyShockwave employs painless sound waves to stimulate tissue repair and bone healing, break down scar tissue, and promote cell regeneration. The therapy is used to reach deep locations such as the hip joint.
    • Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) — Laser therapy uses a specific light wavelength to stimulate cellular processes, enhance circulation, accelerate healing, and decrease inflammation. 
  • Procedures Prolotherapy, which is also known as proliferative therapy, is a non-pharmaceutical, non-surgical option for chronically painful pets, or those with partial or early ligament or tendon tears (e.g., cruciate ligament [CCL], gastrocnemius [Achilles’ tendon]). Prolotherapy is a regenerative therapy that involves injecting sterile nutrients or patient-derived platelet-rich plasma (PRP) directly into the affected joint. The injection triggers surrounding joint cells to release various growth factors that stimulate new tissue growth, ligament repair, and collagen fiber production. To ensure accurate injection and patient comfort, pets are administered light reversible sedation for prolotherapy. 

Is your pet experiencing chronic pain?

As much as we try to protect pets from painful conditions through routine wellness care, some realities, including accidents, injuries, and inherited conditions, are unavoidable. Fortunately, your understanding of chronic pain and ability to recognize pain in its earliest stages can minimize “purposeless pain” and help your pet live a longer, more comfortable life.

If your pet struggles with chronic pain, is unresponsive to traditional pain medication, or has recently demonstrated changes in behavior, personality, or mobility, schedule an appointment at Meridian Veterinary Care and let us determine the best options for your pet.