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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New tool aims to empower clinicians, pet owners in assessing pain in cats

Pain management has come a long way in terms of our companion animals, and it's a three-fold approach: anticipating pain (post-surgically, as an example), accessing any level of pain and of course alleviating it via prescription medication or nonpharmacologic techniques.

We know that the neural pathways and neurotransmitters of animals and humans are similar, so it's safe to say that we experience pain in much the same way. That said, we are able to manage pain for pets using some (not all) of the same medications, however not all drugs are created equal, as they metabolize and affect dogs and cats differently and can even be toxic. For that reason, they are used under the direction of a veterinary doctor.

We partner with vets in managing our pet's health, but accessing if an animal is in pain — not to mention the intensity of their discomfort — can be tough, given the obvious language barrier. It's really up to us humans to be vigilant and decipher what we see as best we can so that we can be of help.

Dogs have had a bit of an advantage over cats in this realm with the development of the Glasgow Composite Measure Pain Scale (CMPS) years ago, though it doesn't seem to hurt that the way that we relate to dogs lends itself to us being able to pick up on cues a little easier.

Cats can now be better understood when it comes to expressing pain, with the implementation of the Composite Measure Pain Scale - Feline, which was developed by Gillian Calvo, a veterinary nurse, along with a team of specialists in pain management.

The first of its kind in assessing pain in cats, it follows the success of the CMPS and uses 6 categories to evaluate pain: vocalization, activity/posture, attention to the wound, response to people, response to touch and demeanor.

Each of the categories is given a score, and from there, a total score out of 16 is extrapolated.

Calvo, along with her colleagues published a paper titled, Development of a behaviour-based measurement tool with defined intervention level for assessing acute pain in cats

“I am absolutely delighted to have been part of the development of this ground-breaking CMPS-F tool which is available for veterinary professionals to use as an adjunct to their clinical judgement when assessing acute pain in cats," said Calvo, a senior practitioner nurse with Fitzpatrick Referrals in the United Kingdom.

"I feel immensely privileged to have had the opportunity to be the voice for so many felines and can’t wait to see the difference the CMPS-F tool will make to the lives of so many cats, vets and vet nurses worldwide”.

The team hopes to implement the aspect of facial expression into the the tool for an enhanced level of accuracy, and that's fleshed out a bit more in the paper, Evaluation of facial expression in acute pain in cats.

To empower yourself in detecting oft-missed pain in your pet, click here.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer -- most recently as a contributor on MLive -- and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

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