Should you accept and even insist on pain management measures after your dog’s surgery or injury?
It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? Or is it? What would be your answer?
A friend’s dog became lame and was diagnosed with a partial ACL tear. Their vet recommended to wait and see, even though the friend wanted to do surgery (I don’t see what the vet wanted to wait for but I’m not going to get into that here).
He also recommended, when asked, not to start any pain management.
An argument against pain management?
In response to his surprise, my friend was told that if the leg isn’t going to hurt, his dog will not be aware of a problem, overuse the leg, and might tear the ligament completely.
What do you think?
When Jasmine was first diagnosed with her knee injury, we thought the same thing.
What do I think today? Well, I do think that the concept is partially true, the injured ligament certainly is in danger of getting fully torn. It is also true that one of the functions of pain is to alert to a problem. How does that work out in the long run, though?
I know from experience that a damaged ligament can let go pretty much at any time, for any reason, and it doesn’t take any wild or crazy moves.
In light of that, the above argument is kind of moot, isn’t it?
I believe, that if the ligament is going to go, it’s going to go whether your dog is in pain or not. Except that your dog is going to be in pain!
An argument for pain management
What is the first thing you do when you get a headache or hurt? Raid the medicine cabinet for aspirin, right? Do you think your dog wants to be in pain any more than you do?
I’m not even going to get into talking about the physiological impact of pain.
Besides making your dog comfortable, there is a practical reason behind pain management–as normal use of the injured limb as possible.
My hot yoga instructor friend says that one should do their best not to limp for more than a couple of days. Here is why.
Firstly, the less the limb gets used, the more muscle atrophy your dog ends up with.
Muscles help to protect and keep the joints stable. The more muscle your dog loses, the bigger the load on the joints. So that kind of counters the whole idea of protecting the ligament, doesn’t it?
Secondly, every time one part of the body doesn’t get used properly, the rest of the body needs to compensate.
Since the friend’s dog is no pup, the chances are that the injury was caused by a gradual weakening of the ligament over time. That also means that the ligament in the other knee isn’t in the best shape either. Favoring the injured leg will cause additional stress on the other joint and increase the likelihood of the second ACL tearing also. This will likely happen anyway, but I think that having one bum knee at the time is quite enough.
The impact of favoring one leg doesn’t end there. It will, in the end, affect the whole rest of the body.
When you see a dog with disproportionately broad shoulders, it is a safe bet to assume that their hind legs are in bad shape. I’ve seen quite a few such dogs.
Due to Jasmine’s knee injuries and surgeries, her shoulders got visibly broader also, and developed arthritis, from the access load they had to carry.
Today, with her hind legs working properly, her shoulders had returned to their proper proportion.
When any part is not functioning properly, the whole rest of the body suffers.
One time, hubby had a wart on his foot. It hurt to step on and so he was not walking properly. His entire leg and back ended up hurting as a result of that. A small problem turned into a huge one.
Is there any advantage of passing on pain management then? What do you think?
Note: If you do need chemical help to keep your dog calm during recovery, ask your veterinarian about Trazodone.
Pain Management for Dogs