Chronic pain in cats: Recent advances in clinical assessment.J Feline Med Surg 2019; 21(7):601-614JF
Chronic pain is a feline health and welfare issue. It has a negative impact on quality of life and impairs the owner-cat bond. Chronic pain can exist by itself or may be associated with disease and/or injury, including osteoarthritis (OA), cancer, and oral and periodontal disease, among others.
Chronic pain assessment is a fundamental part of feline practice, but can be challenging due to differences in pain mechanisms underlying different conditions, and the cat's natural behavior. It relies mostly on owner-assessed behavioral changes and time-consuming veterinary consultations. Beyond OA - for which disease-specific clinical signs have been described - little is known regarding other feline conditions that produce chronic pain.
Knowledge of the subject has, however, greatly improved in the past few years, informed by study of the mechanisms of pain in cats with OA and the development of pain scales that can be used by owners or veterinarians. Pain scales may facilitate the diagnosis and follow-up evaluation of chronic painful conditions, providing a basis for therapeutic decision-making. Assessment of quality of life is also recommended in cats with chronic pain, and its improvement can be used as a positive outcome in response to therapy.
This article reviews recent advances and presents the challenges and some future perspectives on clinical chronic pain assessment. The most common feline chronic conditions associated with pain are also described.