AAHA, AAFP expand guidelines on pain management

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Advances in pain management for companion animals underlie the decision of the American Animal Hospital Association and American Association of Feline Practitioners to update the 2007 AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. The 2015 guidelines represent a consensus of expert opinions, summarizing and offering a review of new research and knowledge.

White dog and white cat sitting next to each other

“The management of pain is a crucial component in every veterinary practice,” said Dr. Mark Epstein, co-chair of the task force that prepared the guidelines. “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.”

“Pain management requires a continuum of care that includes anticipation, early intervention, and evaluation of response for every individual patient,” said Dr. Ilona Rodan, co-chair of the task force. “A team-oriented approach that also includes the owner is essential for maximizing the recognition, prevention, and treatment of pain for our patients. Client education is also a key component that enables the pet owner to manage pain in the home.”

The 2015 guidelines differ from the 2007 version in several ways:

  • The first section contains general concepts to set the stage for the remaining, more-specific content.
  • The new guidelines discuss the importance of an integrated approach to managing pain that does not rely strictly on analgesic drugs. Because pain assessment in animals has become more scientifically grounded in recent years, the document describes various clinically validated instruments for scoring pain in both dogs and cats.
  • A section on feline degenerative joint disease has been added because of the increased awareness of this painful condition in cats over the last few years.
  • The extensive list of published references includes numerous studies published within the last three years.

The 2015 AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats are available online.

Related JAVMA content:

Guidelines help tackle pain in cats and dogs (Nov. 1, 2007)