Pain Management 101

My husband and I just returned from a wonderful stay at a dog-friendly campground. We encountered just about as many dogs as we did people! We made some new friends including Buddy, Sierra, Milo, Otis, Judd, Lexie, and Homer (please don’t ask me to recall the names of their humans). Our next-door neighbors were Milo and Otis, two middle-aged black Labradors. When these goofy brothers weren’t off on family hikes they spent their time meandering about with sticks in their mouths and checking our campsite in case we managed to “misplace” any food items. By day three, I observed them to be exploring less and lying around more. I also noticed that Milo was favoring a front leg and Otis was showing discomfort in his hind end. When I mentioned my observations to our neighbors (I cannot seem to keep my mouth shut in such situations), they told me that Milo and Otis both have arthritis and their stiffness and soreness was predictable in response to their increased activity level. They routinely gave them pain medication (the equivalent of aspirin or ibuprofen for us) as soon as arthritis symptoms became apparent. In fact, they had administered their first dosage that morning. These poor folks had no idea that such innocent comments would prompt a mini-lecture from the likes of me! Here is what I explained:

Whether for ourselves or for our pets, the ideal time to treat predictable pain is before it begins. Investigational studies have documented that pain can induce a “kindling effect”. In other words, low-grade pain has the potential to self-ignite into a flare-up of pain that is more severe, therefore more difficult to control with medication. Far better to take proactive measures (medication, acupuncture, rehabilitation therapy, glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, etc.) before the onset of predictable or anticipated pain than it is to attempt to douse the discomfort once it has already “caught fire”. It’s also important to keep in mind that many dogs, particularly those with stoic demeanors, may not demonstrate any overt symptoms until their pain has progressed well beyond what would be considered mild.

I suspect that my new friends Milo and Otis will be far more comfortable on their future camping trips! I must confess here- I also counseled their humans on the benefits of weight loss (both dogs were chubby) as a means of benefiting their arthritis pain. Those poor people certainly got more than they bargained for! Does your dog predictably become stiff or sore following increased activity? If so, please share what you do to prevent the discomfort.

Now, here’s wishing you and your four-legged best friend good health! 

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

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3 Responses to “Pain Management 101”

  1. Mcappy Says:

    Interesting read. I had always premedicated my 10+ year old before a longer walk or romp at the beach and then afterwards. I noticed no increased limping.
    Recently I had another vet tell me that in human studies seasoned runners (I think) marathoners premedicated themselves with IB but after the event when compared to others that did not premedicate they noted increased inflamation and a mild rise in renal indicies from their baseline compared to those that did not premedicate. Hence leading me to believe I was causing more harm. I wish I could find this study. Has this been validated? Or just another opinion from another vet?

  2. BobtheDog Says:

    Where’s this dog friendly campground?

  3. speakingforspot Says:

    The dog-friendly (and horse-friendly) campground is near Truckee, California and is called the Euer Valley Campground. I hope Bob gets to go there, especially if he likes horses!

    Dr. Nancy Kay

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