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With your dog gets a diagnosis of cancer, you and your veterinarian are probably focusing on the cancer treatment while your canine companion may wish you were focusing on his pain. According to the Pet Cancer Center website, veterinarians are beginning to recognize that dogs experience cancer-associated pain much the same as humans. Cancer-associated pain may be caused by the cancer or the treatments. While pain medications are one source of pain management, other options, including neurotoxins, help to relieve pain. Talk with your veterinarian about the best pain management options for your dog.
A Look at Traditional Pain Medications
As with human cancer pain, alleviating cancer pain in dogs begins with addressing the cancer. In cases of a tumor, surgical removal is often enough to ease the pain. Unfortunately, surgery is not always an option. In this case, the front-line pain management option is often pain medications. This can range from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications for mild pain to strong opioid drugs, such as morphine. When oral or injectable medications like these are not enough, your veterinarian may choose to inject a local anesthetic into the nerves around the area of pain.
Pain Management for Side Effects
Sometimes it isn’t the cancer causing pain and discomfort, but rather the treatments used to fight the cancer. Chemotherapy can cause irritation and inflammation to the intestine, resulting in pain and discomfort. Radiation therapy can cause inflammation in the mouth, skin and intestines. With either treatment option, a change to a high-fiber diet may help with intestinal inflammation, and an Elizabethan collar may be necessary to keep your dog from licking irritated skin. Oral rinses can help relieve irritations in the mouth.
A Promising New Neurotoxin
In October 2013, a study published in "Anesthesiology" looked at the effects of the neurotoxin P-saporin on pain associated with bone cancer. The neurotoxin attaches and destroys pain-sensing nerves. Half of the 70 dogs in the study received the neurotoxin and the other half received nothing more than traditional care. Results showed that dogs treated with the neurotoxin experienced a 5 percent improvement in pain scores while those on traditional treatment saw an increase of 6 percent. The results show promise for pain management with other canine cancers as well as for human pain management.
In addition to traditional pain management, sometimes something as simple as a confortable dog bed or massage can help relieve your dog’s pain. Another option is acupuncture. Veterinarian Demian Dressler, known as the dog cancer vet, points out that in addition to traditional pain management options, acupuncture can allow for a reduction in pain medication while helping to decrease the amount of pain your dog experiences. In many cases it's a viable option for dogs who do not tolerate medications well.