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New tools get to the heart of feline aches

By Kelley Weir

Have you ever watched a cat jump off a high countertop and the first thought that pops into your mind is, “Wow, that’s gotta hurt!”

And yet, the cat doesn’t seem phased at all. A cat’s ability to hide pain is almost legendary. In the wild, an animal that is ill, lame or crying out in pain is vulnerable to attack, but in a domestic setting, being stoic could affect
a cat’s quality of life because it may not get effective pain management—and that can lead to poor recovery after injury or surgery or a lack of treatment for illness.

Chronic pain—and the resulting behavioral changes—can also affect the bond between cats and their owners, which can to lead to relinquishment and unnecessary euthanasia. That is why there is more focus on developing tools to help veterinarians and owners subjectively measure pain in cats.

Building tools to gauge pain

The older the cat, the more susceptible it is to experiencing chronic pain from osteoarthritis. Traditionally, the disease has been underdiagnosed in cats because symptoms can be subtle. Using Morris Animal Foundation funding, researchers from the University of Montreal, Drs. Mary Klinck and Eric Troncy, are developing two different arthritis pain scales for cats: one designed for use by owners and another for use by veterinarians. So far, their work shows promise, and next steps for the project include laboratory trials to increase the tests’ sensitivity and make them even better at detecting pain.

At North Carolina State University, another study funded by the Foundation is also building a tool for diagnosing pain. Dr. Duncan Lascelles is developing a subjective owner-based questionnaire that could help owners and veterinarians assess how well cats are responding to treatments.

These assessment tools are currently being vetted for validity and sensitivity but could be promising to future researchers and veterinarians in reducing pain in cats.


Posted by MAFon May 18, 2012.

Categories: Animal health, Animal studies, Cat health

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Submitted by Courtney at: May 25, 2012
What needs to be further investigated is INFLAMMATION. Leading cause of disease in both cats and humans. Food quality/additives, exercise + genetics and breed can indicate how bad inflammation will be for the pet in years to come. Further research on what takes pressure off of joints will be immensely helpful. Acupressure can help as the pet owner can learn to initiate relieving massage to arthritic cats. There are bands for pressure points for humans for sea sickness, arthritis, etc. Perhaps also another avenue to be explored.
Submitted by Courtney Mann at: May 25, 2012
Cats may try to fake it, but from my experience, there is a underlying message they send to you intuitively when you interact with them and they are already ill. It's almost feels like they are holding something back when you try and communicate with them, but they just will not let you in fully as to not give up their vital status. Though not 100% efficient, there is a lot to be said for the owner-cat bond. Most caregivers are quite in tune with their cats intuitively and this shouldn't be underestimated in gauging sickness. Usually, if something feels wrong, it IS wrong.
Submitted by Al Beitz at: May 23, 2012
This article is interesting but doesn't really say anything new. How are these pain scales different from what is already available and are they objective or subjective? Veterinarians should consider that there are a large number of behavioral pain tests that have been developed and that are widely used by researchers to measure and quantify pain in rodents and many of these can easily be adapted to measure pain in cats and dogs. In addition the state of arousal and attention are important modulators of pain sensitivity in animals and this should be taken into consideration.
Submitted by Johnna at: May 23, 2012
This is outstanding news. I have an elderly cat with lower back pain. Currently, the only med he is on is cosequin. I am about to try accupuncture. So I hope some of these studies will include "non traditional" approached.
Submitted by Cindy Dahlgren at: May 22, 2012
If you need owners of elderly cats to help beta test this questionnaire, I would love to help. I have 4 cats over the age of 10.