The treatment of pain in cats has long been challenging, not only because cats tend to hide their pain (a throwback to their not-so-distant wild ancestry), but because many common pain-relieving drugs used in veterinary medicine are dangerous to cats.
For veterinarians in high-volume spay programs, such as in shelters, rescues or large general practices, having an easy to administer, effective and affordable post-operative pain medication is particularly important. Less pain translates into less stress and quicker post-op recovery.
Veterinary anesthesiologist and pain expert Dr. Paolo Steagall of the University of Montreal recognized the need for better pain relief in cats, especially those in stressful shelter environments. He received a grant from Morris Animal Foundation to study a new method for administering pain medication during spay surgery, one of the most common surgical procedures in shelter and rescue cats.
“I wanted to find a technique that could be used everywhere and help millions of cats,” said Dr. Steagall.
Dr. Steagall gave cats undergoing spay surgery an injection of the drug bupivacaine directly into their abdomen as their spay surgeries were completed but before they were awakened from general anesthesia. Administering the medication during the surgery is easier than trying to medicate a frightened and painful cat post-procedure, noted Dr. Steagall.
Study results showed the cats remained comfortable after their procedures, and many did not require additional pain medication. Importantly, bupivacaine use in cats is not associated with the many side effects noted with other pain medications, such as morphine or NSAIDS. Bupivacaine also is readily available, low cost, and not a controlled drug, an added benefit for veterinarians and their staff.
Dr. Steagall has presented these results to numerous professional veterinary organizations, including the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, and the American Veterinary Medical Association.
“Slowly, the message is getting out there,” said Dr. Steagall, who has receive positive feedback from veterinarians around the world who have used his technique in their clinics. “I’m happy that I can make a difference for cats and their caretakers.”