Pain Management

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Pain hurts, but it also has many other detrimental effects on your pet’s body. Pain slows healing, decreases activity, causes behavioral changes such as aggression, anxiety, and depression, and worsens diseases like arthritis and potentially some cancers. It also interferes with the bond between you and your pet.

At Pet Townsend Veterinary Clinic, we practice the most up-to-date pain management protocols for managing acute pain (such as surgical or traumatic pain) and chronic pain (such as with arthritis, mobility disease, and some cancers) alike. When it comes to pain, our two main concerns here are quality of life and patient safety. 

Not all pain is the same, because the nervous system (and how it modulates pain signals in the body) can be a bit different for each case. Gone are the days where we rely on a single method to manage our chronic pain cases because we now understand that pain pathways can be quite complex. While some mild or early cases of arthritis, for example, might certainly benefit from a single modality to treat a problem, more and more commonly we are using what pain specialists term multimodal pain control — which simply means addressing different pain pathways and different causes of pain with different modalities. 


There are many different types of safe and effective prescription pain medications available. Some, such as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications) do a great job of targeting inflammation at the site of arthritis or injury, and these can work beautifully at decreasing pain when there is chronic inflammation in the body. Other medications may be more targeted to work at the level of the “upper” level of the central nervous system, to help modulate how the brain interprets pain signals. And often, medications from different drug families can safely be used together in the same, in order to target more than one pain pathway in the body. While this may seem concerning or cause about the use of more than one medication, it can actually be safer for patients, as the doses can often be minimized if we are targeting pain at different sites in the body. Most importantly, we see the increased quality of life as the gold standard. Seeing a patient move more easily, rest more soundly, and be able to enjoy life in their own body is what it’s all about. 

It is important to know that any medication (including herbs and natural supplements) has the potential to cause adverse effects for our patients — just like some humans experience adverse effects with certain medications or foods. For this reason, we will make any medical treatment plan with your pet’s benefit in mind — we all want happy pets and treatment success, whatever modalities are chosen. Having said this, our veterinarians will commonly ask that clients agree to doing some basic lab tests every so often when using certain medications. When this is done, it doesn’t mean that we think a medication is dangerous or unsafe — but we also want to make sure your pet’s body is metabolizing the medication without any problems. And if we notice any sort of adverse effects when using a medication, we work together to change the plan, so that our plan is in the greatest service to our animal patients. 

We often use other non-prescription modalities to treat pain, as well — frequently in conjunction with traditional prescription pain medications. Please consult with your veterinarian about which modalities of pain management might best suit your pet’s particular type of pain, as there are quite a few factors to consider when making a decision.

Here is a list of modalities that we may offer, when treating chronic pain in our patients:


Acute pain comes on suddenly as a result of an injury, surgery, inflammation or infection. It can be extremely uncomfortable for your pet, and it may limit his or her mobility. The good news is that it’s usually temporary. It generally goes away when the condition that causes it is treated.


Chronic pain is long-lasting and usually slow to develop. Some of the more common sources of chronic pain are age-related disorders, such as arthritis, but it can also result from illnesses such as cancer or bone disease. This pain may be the hardest to deal with because it can go on for years, or for an animal’s entire lifetime. Also, because it develops slowly, some animals may gradually learn to tolerate the pain and live with it. This can make chronic pain difficult to detect.

Animals instinctually hide pain. How do you know when your pet is hurting? Look for any of the following signs:

Because our fur-babies aren’t able to tell us when something is wrong, it’s important for you, the pet parent, to take note of any changes in their behavior. Look for any of the following signs that maybe your pet’s way of saying “I hurt.”

Many animals, especially cats, naturally disguise signs of pain to protect themselves from predators. However, the lack of obvious signs does not mean they aren’t experiencing pain. If the injury, illness or experience is one that sounds painful to you, it is likely painful to your pet. Modern pain management medications and techniques can safely and effectively control pain with little to no side effects.


Photobiomodulation with laser therapy occurs when a dose of light energy reaches deep into the target tissue — resulting in decreased inflammation, decreased pain, and accelerated healing for our patients. This painless, safe and effective therapy is a veterinarian-prescribed, technician-driven modality that effectively treats a wide variety of conditions of pain — including pre-surgical, post-surgical, acute, and chronic pain and/or inflammation states. 

At Pet Townsend Veterinary Clinic, laser treatments are performed by a skilled member of our laser-certified veterinary nursing team, to ensure the best treatment success while ensuring safety for everyone involved. Laser therapy has been practiced for more than 30 years, during which time it has been used to treat chronic pain, trauma, arthritis, and metabolic disease. At our hospitals, we ensure that all safety protocols are always used in order to deliver maximum results in a minimal amount of time. Our clients and doctors all seem to agree the results of laser treatments have been overwhelmingly impressive when it comes to decreasing pain, decreasing inflammation, and speeding up tissue healing.


Acupuncture is a 3,000-year-old Chinese practice utilizing hair-thin needles to stimulate the body’s nerve centers, improving blood circulation and releasing pain-relieving hormones. This gentle process relaxes muscle tissue and oxygenates the surrounding area, allowing the body to heal more rapidly. Acupuncture is one of the safest veterinary treatments available, and Pet Townsend Veterinary Clinic offers this service through our doctors who are professionally licensed and exceptionally skilled at the practice. Types of pain that be addressed by using acupuncture:

  • Neurologic and soft tissue pain
  • Arthritis
  • Musculoskeletal systemic problems
  • Hind limb weakness
  • Spinal cord disorders
  • Intervertebral disc disease and back pain
  • Cancer pain

Acupuncture requires no pharmaceutical assistance, removing the possibility of overdose and adverse reaction, and can be used in conjunction with most other traditional and alternative treatments. Most patients tolerate acupuncture needles quite well, and can easily be distracted by love and/or treats (please bring some of their normal food or treats if they are sensitive to other foods).

Not sure if acupuncture is right for your pet? No problem. We require a comprehensive physical, medical, and Chinese Medical assessment/examination prior to your pet’s first acupuncture treatment, so we generally formulate a treatment plan together during this initial acupuncture exam. Acupuncture treatments can be a bit more nuanced, and often takes into consideration a great many factors — including a patient’s emotional and behavioral history, their home environment and lifestyle, their diet, etc. 


Some patients simply cannot abide by acupuncture needles, and for those pets, we offer laser acupuncture, a treatment very similar to traditional acupuncture but one that utilizes a focused and intense light therapy rather than needles to stimulate pressure points and initiate the healing process. Our Class 4 therapeutic laser (see above) is used for these treatments,  utilizing a specific acupuncture probe that delivers a large dose of targeted energy towards specific acupoints. Just like other laser treatments, laser acupuncture is quick, effective and painless — and for this reason, it’s the preferred method of delivering acupuncture for patients who are “needle shy” or who become stressed or agitated with traditional acupuncture treatments.

At Pet Townsend Veterinary Clinic, laser acupuncture treatments are performed only by an acupuncture-certified veterinarian, just like traditional acupuncture treatments. Laser acupuncture has been practiced for more than 30 years, during which time it’s been used to treat chronic pain, trauma, arthritis, and metabolic disease.


While not as commonly used as traditional “dry needle” acupuncture or laser acupuncture, these treatments may be used in order to stimulate certain acupoints for a more sustained or accentuated effect, in certain cases where it is well-tolerated and suspected to be of more benefit to the patient and their condition.


Chinese Herbal Medicine is based on ancient medicinal practices that rely on herbs and minerals to correct imbalances in the body that lead to disease. Herbal approaches have been effective in treating a number of conditions, including epilepsy, hormonal disorders, allergies, liver failure, and inflammatory bowel disease.

The veterinarians and staff at Pet Townsend Veterinary Clinic believe that, in certain cases, Chinese Herbal Medicine can produce better outcomes with fewer side effects than many pharmaceutical products or other conventional Western methods, and clinical and laboratory research backs us up. Studies have shown that herbs can support normal function of the liver, kidneys, heart, and immune system while reducing inflammation and improving blood flow. Herbal medicine can also aid in the death of tumor cells.

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