Back pain affects more than 80 percent of Americans at some point in their lives, and is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor or miss work. But what about our canine companions who often share our sedentary lifestyle, dietary indiscretions, and weekend warrior injuries? If the turnout at a recent pet pain seminar is any indication, our pets share our (back) pain.
On July 28, the Center for Comparative and Integrative Pain Medicine at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital hosted its first pet pain seminar. Reservations were required and the 100 seats went quickly, testament to the concerns pet owners have about their pets’ aches and pains. Approximately 10 participants were asked to bring their companion animals so attendees could observe as Drs. Narda Robinson and Bonnie Wright assessed the animals and gave recommendations for treatment.
“Chronic pain is often missed in our pet populations, or just accepted as a normal part of aging,” said Dr. Robinson, Director of the Center for Comparative and Integrative Pain Medicine. “One of our key missions is to improve awareness of chronic pain with pet owners, and help them make the best decisions for their pets. What many people don’t realize is that there is a wide range of highly effective treatments for pain -- from acupuncture to anti-inflammatories, and laser therapy to massage -- so that no pet ever needs to suffer with untreated pain. Our goal is to improve quality of life for pets in pain, and we have many tools at our disposal to do just that.”
Attending the clinic was Tigger, a 10-year-old toy poodle who pulled himself along with his front legs because of pain in his hindquarters; Pepper, 11, who was always active, but was becoming very sore after walks; and Josie, 13, who seemed uncomfortable in her skin, nervous and restless to the touch. With each dog, Dr. Robinson or Dr. Wright did a quick exam, including using “thinking fingers” to check the spine and target trigger points in muscles. Almost every dog examined had spinal concerns, along with muscle cording that was creating tightness, decreased range of motion and pain.
“Just like humans, our companion animals have a lot of back pain that contributes to health problems throughout the body,” said Dr. Wright, who is an anesthesiologist and specializes in the pharmacological treatment of pain. “This can often fool pet owners who think their pets may have bad hips, or lameness in the front legs, when often the pain comes from the spine and/or the muscles that support the back. With a thorough evaluation, we can usually root out the source of pain and recommend treatment, with the goal of improving the pet’s quality of life.”
The “comparative” part of the center looks at how to treat across species and has not only clinical applications, but basic science research to address pain without drugs, looking at such things as nerve inputs and acupuncture points. The “integrative” part of the center takes approaches to improve pain from a wide array of modalities. Options for treating pain at the center include pharmaceuticals such as anti-inflammatories and opioids; interventional pain medicine procedures including nerve blocks and epidural injections, herbs and supplements, lifestyle changes including elevated food bowls and moderate exercise, and physical medicine such as acupuncture, massage, laser therapy, heat therapy and more.
The Center for Comparative and Integrative Pain Medicine will host another seminar on pet pain on Sept. 30.You can RSVP Dr. Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Bonnie Wright at email@example.com . After that, the center plans to offer bi-monthly seminars on a variety of topics including cancer pain, pain in cats, and more. For updated information, visit the center’s Web site at www.csuvets.colostate.edu/pain.