Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Observing sedation as a side effect of a pet’s pain medication—or is it something else?

There are a few things that pet guardians rate as important when addressing the needs of their aging or terminally ill pet: they don’t want them to suffer, they want them to eat and they don’t want to see them zorked out and sedated on pain medication. And as a Certified Animal Hospice Practitioner, when I’m supporting families as we are discussing pain management with their pet’s veterinarian, the side effects are top of mind for them. (Some medications are sedating, at least temporarily though in many cases the sedation can be a big help, but I digress.)

Those concerns about sleepiness are valid. And when a family gets on board with adequate pain management, I can tell you it’s not a moment too soon. 

The pet does in fact typically sleep more, but it’s easy to focus so much on how drowsy a pet seems as a side effect of meds and not take into account that maybe, for the first time in a long time, the pet has attained a level of comfort because of the medications doing their intended job and assuaging the chronic pain that’s plagued them. The intended effects of those meds that allow them to sleep so long and deep and well because they’re finally comfortable, when that comfort has been fleeting for far too long. Fleeting, because of chronic pain that is very much a diagnosis all on its own that’s been discounted, and has impeded good sleep. 

Pets in later stages of life require lots of sleep and rest. It’s crucial to their well-being. 

Pain medications that a vet wants to prescribe are not an enemy. They are a blessing and prescribed appropriate to a pet’s changing needs, are an essential consideration of a palliative care plan—an ally.

With over 20 years of experience in pet care and the past 9 of those focused on animal hospice, Lorrie Shaw is a Certified Animal Hospice Practitioner and Certified Fear Free Professional. She is CXO of Telos Companion Animal Services, LLC and can be found at 

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