Pain management after surgical procedures should be mandatory, says Kathy Coffman, Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and certified canine rehabilitation and massage therapist with Veterinary Orthopedic Sports Medicine Group in Annapolis Junction, Md. Because most clients don't recognize the subtle signs that show their pets are suffering, they may only see an added expense when you recommend soothing medication. Stop giving these pet owners an out and start including the pain medication in the price of procedures, Coffman says. "When surgery fees are increased slightly to cover the costs, everyone—the client, the patient, and the staff—will feel better about it," she says.
In non-procedural cases, like a sprain, where pain management is recommended and refused, Coffman says an experienced, knowledgeable staff member should clearly explain the injury and the level of pain it's causing the pet. Point out pain indicators, such as the pet not wanting to move a leg through a range of motion or subtly guarding the injury by putting its head over the area. Then tell clients how withholding pain medication sets the pet up for further injuries, Coffman says. For example, a dog with hip dysplasia in one leg is likely to compensate by carrying itself differently, putting an extra load on the contralateral leg. If clients refuse pain management because their pets suffered a negative reaction to past medicines, Coffman says to take the time to teach them that there are different classes of medications they can try, which won't cause the same side effects.