Having a pet or sporting dog with acute or chronic pain can be exceptionally distressing for both the animal and its owners. We at HolisticPet have decades of experience in providing effective tailor-made multimodal pain management programs for pets and canine athletes in Northern Ireland, Multimodal pain management involves utilising both medications and physical therapies to target all aspects of pain.


Types of Pain in Pets 


“An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage.”
More usefully pain can be described as :-
“Pain is what the patient says it is”
Pain can be defined as either acute or chronic.

Acute pain also known as physiological pain, has a function, it is protective and triggers withdrawal reflexes to keep an individual safe by restricting further damage. It is the sudden pain that usually accompanies physical damage such as with accidents, inflammation or an infection. Acute pain is usually short lasting but can be extremely uncomfortable for your pet and may limit normal activity. Acute pain normally goes away with time and treatment once healing has taken place.

Chronic pain also known as pathological or maladaptive pain has no useful function. Effectively with chronic pain, the brain still thinks a threat exists and acts to protect the body from further damage even after healing has taken place. The pain that persists can become the disease itself.

Chronic pain is often associated with an extreme response to a painful stimulus “Hyperalgesia” and/or a painful response to a non-painful stimulus known as “Allodynia”. In addition, it may lead to significant levels of persistent myofascial [muscle and soft tissue] pain. Chronic pain often involves pain memory. As a result, pets may associate certain events, places or even people with the pain and react to them in fearful or aversive ways.

Most importantly chronic pain is known to have an impact on the individual’s quality of life affecting sleep, appetite and mood. It is now well recognised that dogs and cats experiencing chronic pain often have reduced quality of life and there are a variety of questionnaires available to assess this.   

Pain can also be defined as one of the following classes;-

  • Somatic - originating from limbs and skin.
  • Visceral - originating from internal organs.
  • Neuropathic - originating from the spinal cord or nerves.

An individual animal’s pain may be one of these types or a combination of all 3 and in addition, all 3 types can be either acute or chronic. 


Recognising Pain in your Pet


In some cases, it can be obvious that your pet is in pain eg if they are obviously limping or reluctant to move but in others, the signs can be more subtle. Some of the signs that a pet is in pain are below but remember that pain is a very individualised experience and your pet may express it in their own unique way.

  • Being withdrawn, reluctant to play, interact or go for their usual walk
  • Becoming more demanding of attention
  • Excessive licking or chewing at parts of the body
  • Reduced appetite
  • Changes in sleep pattern - disturbed sleep and restlessness at night or sometimes sleeping more. 
  • Inability to jump into the car, onto bed or sofa
  • Difficulty rising after lying down or climbing stairs
  • Dislike petting, stroking or being picked up
  • Many pets will suffer in silence when in pain but some will whine, whimper or scream
  • Excessive panting or pacing around
  • Change in facial expression
  • Lameness
  • Arched back or unusual posture
  • Changes in their behaviour towards other dogs 
  • Out-of-character behaviour such as aggression, anxiety or fearfulness. Even an increased sensitivity to loud noises can be a symptom.


What is Multimodal Analgesia?


Multimodal analgesia involves the use of different classes of drugs and different pain relieving therapies which target pain in different ways. Using this method may provide better analgesia with reduced drug dosages which is a safer approach for the patient. The technique requires an understanding of pharmacology and physiology as well as a knowledge of the various therapeutic modalities such as physiotherapy, laser, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, and therapeutic exercises.


Golden Labrador treatment


Holistic Approach to Veterinary Pain Management 


The Holistic approach can also be referred to as the “whole body” approach to health. Vets taking this approach look at all aspects of an animal’s health, lifestyle, behaviour and clinical history to determine the best combination of therapies which to help the individual. This may involve addressing their weight, bedding, exercise and nutrition as well as all the available medications and therapies. The use of a holistic approach to multimodal pain management often means that less medication may be required to control a specific painful condition with obvious benefit for the patient. 


Multimodal Pain Management Therapy 


Veterinary surgeons trained in pain relieving therapies are best placed to provide multimodal analgesia programs as they will understand both the conventional pharmacological medications and the scope, indications and contraindications of the physical therapies. At HolisticPet we combine medications, supplements, acupuncture, therapeutic laser, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, ultrasound, PEMF, electro therapies and therapeutic exercises to create a tailored program for each individual patient. Combining different therapies can help reduce the dosages of individual medications required to control a patient’s pain.

The combined therapies may be used weekly for a number of weeks for acute conditions or less frequently for chronic conditions. Sessions commonly take 30-60 minutes depending on which therapies are used.

For example:-

A geriatric patient with chronic osteoarthritis with secondary myofascial (muscle, soft tissue and connective tissue) pain and muscle atrophy plus neuropathic (nerve) pain may require a NSAID (non steroidal anti inflammatory drug), laser and PEMF for joint pain; a muscle relaxant drug, acupuncture and regular massage for myofascial pain; a centrally (brain) acting drug such as gabapentain or amantidine plus acupuncture, laser and PEMF for the neuropathic pain; hydrotherapy and therapeutic exercise for improved mobility and balance; NMES (neuromuscular electrical stimulation ) for muscle atrophy.

On the other hand, a fit sporting dog with an acute injury may require acupuncture, cryotherapy, laser and PEMF for acute inflammation combined with hydrotherapy and therapeutic exercises to improve recovery and maximise strength and fitness.

At Holistic Pet, we don’t just treat injuries in Sporting dogs. We are also trained in techniques to maximise their preparedness for their chosen sport. This involves both skill training and conditioning and requires an in-depth knowledge of the various sports in addition to the practice of therapeutic physical rehabilitation.


Why Choose HolisticPet NI?


HolisticPet only employs vet and vet nurses passionate about pet pain management and who have undergone extensive additional training in this field. They are the most experienced team of veterinary professionals working in this area in Northern Ireland. They are constantly updating their training in this field. Siobhan holds a GP Certificate in Western Veterinary Acupuncture and Chronic Pain and is the only vet in Ireland to hold the Canine Certified Rehabilitation Practitioner qualification, a RACE approved university qualification in animal rehabilitation which includes all the physiotherapy modalities. Elsa has studied Rehabilitation, Chronic Pain Management, Laser therapy and Acupuncture. Emma and Sandra have studied acupuncture with Longview vet services and the Western Veterinary Acupuncture Group. In addition, Sandra has a qualification in Canine Conditioning.

Is your pet suffering from chronic pain? If so, call the most highly qualified and experienced veterinary pain management team in Northern Ireland now for sympathetic and educated advice.