Understanding chronic pain in cats

4 November 2019 – News

A longer life expectancy in cats came together with a higher prevalence of chronic painful conditions, which assessment is a challenge for the majority of veterinarians. Chronic pain has a negative impact in the quality of life of animals and it can exist by itself or be associated with disease/injury.

To access chronic pain it is important to consider and evaluate three main domains: sensory-discriminative, cognitive-evaluative and affective-motivational. Pain may also be characterized as nociceptive, inflammatory, neuropathic or functional – combined or alone.

Owner’s cooperation is essential as most of pain scales rely on changes in behaviour and cat’s daily routine that stressful veterinary visits won’t show.

Besides exposing some clinical metrology and health-related quality of life instruments, this review also summarizes differential diagnosis and presents a step-by-step clinical assessment, important for the minimization of pain in cats.

Another important reference is the correlation between the severity of acute postoperative pain and the risk of developing chronic pain, placing great emphasis on the importance of an adequate analgesia and pain management when invasive surgical procedures are performed.

Decreased activity levels or ability to perform usual activities, changes in appetite, inappropriate elimination, skin and nails problems and/or apathy are the more commonly observed signs in cats with chronic pain. Anyway, veterinarians must be aware that it has no clear end point or physiological function and affects each individual in a unique way.

P Monteiro, B. and Steagall, P. Chronic Pain in Cats Recent advances in clinical assessment. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery (2019) 21, 601–614.