AAHA, AAFP Revise Pain Management Advice

The 2015 AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats stress the need for an integrated approach.

The 2015 AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats note the importance of gentle handling of patients suffering from acute or chronic pain.

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Relieving pain in cats and dogs should not automatically start with drugs, two veterinary organizations are reminding practitioners in an update to an eight-year-old document.

The American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners teamed up to produce the 2015 AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. The 18-page strategy was published in the March/April edition of the AAHA journal and is available online at

The 2015 guidelines stress the need for an integrated approach to managing pain. In a section titled “It’s Not Just About Drugs,” the authors pointed out that pharmaceuticals may not be the best choice.

“Examples of nonpharmacologic treatments supported by strong evidence include, but are not limited to, cold compression, weight optimization and therapeutic exercise,” the guidelines state. “Other treatment options gaining increasing acceptance include acupuncture, physical rehabilitation, myofascial trigger point therapy, therapeutic laser and other modalities.”

Mark Epstein, DVM, Dipl. ABVP, CVPP, who practices at TotalBond Veterinary Hospital in Gastonia, N.C., served as co-chairman of the 2015 guidelines committee.

“The management of pain is a crucial component in every veterinary practice,” Dr. Epstein said. “Practices should be committed to educating the entire health care team about prevention, recognition, assessment and treatment of pain.

“Alleviating pain is not only a professional obligation, but also a key contributor to successful case outcomes and enhancement of the veterinarian-client-patient relationship,” he added.

The guidelines were last published in 2007. Other updates include:

  • An opening section on general concepts.
  • A section on feline degenerative joint disease.
  • References to more recent studies.

Guidelines co-chairwoman Ilona Rodan, DVM, Dipl. ABVP, the founder of Cat Care Clinic in Madison, Wis., said pain management “requires a continuum of care that includes anticipation, early intervention and evaluation of response for every individual patient.’

“A team-oriented approach that also includes the owner is essential for maximizing the recognition, prevention and treatment of pain for our patients,” Dr. Rodan said. “Client education is also a key component that enables the pet owner to manage pain in the home.” 

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