Keeping Kitty Comfortable
We all know how humans express pain. They say ouch, they gasp, and they grimace. But how do you know when your cat is uncomfortable or even hurting outright?
The truth is that cats are very self-contained and don't like to express physical or emotional issues, so it is a serious challenge to know when your cat is in pain. One reason for this is that an animal in the wild that is injured or ill tends to be vulnerable to predators while being strong and stoic makes for better chances of survival. Because of a cat's natural reticence in showing pain, it has taken a long time for the issue of pain management to come to the fore in regards to felines.
But there's an additional reason for ignoring the problem of pain management in cats. It seems that cats are much more sensitive to pain medications in common use than humans or even dogs. However, at last we know, after much research, that some pain killers can be used in cats with caution, for short periods or with long intervals between dosages. Some can be given to cats in lower doses and still be effective.
Certain pain medications will never be suitable for cats because they are sensitive creatures. Their livers lack the enzyme pathway called glucuronidation that is possessed by both dogs and humans. This prevents felines from tolerating medications in the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory class (NSAIDs). Examples of NSAIDs include aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. All of these medications are capable of building up to toxic levels in cats due to their deficiency which is specific to their species.
Painkillers belonging to the opioid group, including morphine, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone, need to be given in careful doses or side effects both behavioral and physical in nature may occur. Today, we have more of an idea of the optimal doses for these medications in cats and as a result, these are being used for pain management in hospitalized cats with more confidence by their veterinarians.
While guidelines exist to help assess human pain, in cats, such tools are only rudimentary at present. The main reason for this is that no one studied the subject until recent times. The other reason is that cats are hard to figure out. However, if you think your cat may be in pain, watch for the following clues:
*Lack of interest in food
*Lack of interest in people or in his environment
*Sitting immobile or curling up tight for long periods
*Insufficient or absent grooming
*Insistent grooming of sore spots
*Soiling your home
*Hostility or aggression
*Stops socializing with feline and canine friends
*Growling, hissing, purring
*Restlessness and agitation
*Quick, shallow breathing
By assessing the number of signs, you can get some idea of your cat's pain levels. Make a note of what you've observed and speak to his veterinarian.