How to ease cat pain. Bonus: It pays.

Help cat owners provide a pain-free existence for their feline friends.
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Jul 01, 2008


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A client tells you that her kitty spends most of its time curled up on the couch, sleeping. It doesn't get up much except to eat, drink, and use the litter box. The cat even seems depressed, but cats are just lethargic creatures, right? This is a misconception that Dr. Eliza Sundahl, owner of KC Cat Clinic in Kansas City, Mo., tries to change every day. "What if that cat's curled up because it's ill or in pain?" she says.

It's important for veterinarians to teach clients how to recognize behaviors that show their cats are uncomfortable, Dr. Sundahl says. By encouraging clients to be in tune with their cats' comfort, you can keep cats feeling good, boost your revenue, and strengthen the bond between yourself and pet owners. It all starts with education.

> Keep your eyes on the pain. Dr. Sundahl encourages clients to watch for signs a cat is uncomfortable, especially with senior patients. She asks clients to think about whether their cat's gait has changed or if it has trouble navigating stairs. An arthritic cat, like a person with arthritis, won't stop activity altogether—it'll just change the way it moves and the frequency.

> Treat chronic conditions. Luckily, cats with chronic arthritis pain can benefit from simple environmental changes that are usually inexpensive: softer bedding, ramps to help cats reach their favorite perches, and food bowls on the floor or placed at the cat's elbow level. Arthritic cats may also need to lose weight and receive a supplemental chondroprotective agent. NSAIDS and other analgesics may also be appropriate. And don't forget the mouth. One of the best ways to improve a cat's quality of life is by taking care of oral pain from bad teeth or diseased gums.

Regular exams, urinalysis, and blood work are a necessary part of cat care, and they're especially important for cats on long-term medication. Schedule consultation time with clients to discuss weight control and lifestyle recommendations. All of these strategies are examples of good medicine as good business.

> Target surgical pain. Finally, it's important to control pain for surgical procedures. Dr. Sundahl's clients don't balk at this cost. "They may negotiate the $150 for diagnostics, but no one argues about the $20 or $30 pain medication fee for surgery," she says.

Dr. Sundahl tells clients they have two options for care: diagnose and preempt disease and watch for pain all along, or spend a lot of money at the end of a cat's life trying to pull a cat back from the edge. Once clients see it in that light, most choose the first option.

The bottom line: Pain medication can improve patient care and the bond your clients share with their cats.