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Neutering & Pain Relief

Cats deserve pain relief too

The International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) is launching a new campaign highlighting the need for all cats to receive post-neutering pain relief.

The campaign – Cats deserve pain relief too – has been prompted by a recent study (1) which revealed that perioperative analgesia following neutering was only given to 33% of cats compared with 75% of dogs, a statistic which ISFM is very keen to change. The campaign, which includes a free webinar for veterinary professionals, will highlight the reasons many cats are not receiving post-operative analgesia, and aims to encourage clinics to review their policies on prescribing analgesics for routine neutering procedures.

ISFM already encourages the routine assessment and treatment of pain in cats. However, recognition of pain is not always straightforward and the perception that cats experience less pain than dogs with neutering may largely reflect different behavioural responses to pain between the two species rather than genuine differences in the experience of pain. Physiologically it makes sense that both species are likely to feel pain for several days after a surgical procedure and studies have shown that cats do show behavioural changes indicative of pain for 3 days or more after neutering. (2) However we also know that cats are less demonstrative and less likely to show overt signs of pain such as vocalisation.

Additional reasons why cats receive less analgesia post-operatively than dogs, may include the following:

  • cats are generally discharged relatively rapidly following neutering whilst still benefiting from perioperative analgesic injections
  • owners are often unaware of the subtle signs of pain in cats and consider any changes to behaviour post-surgery as ‘normal’
  • vets often assume that owners are unwilling to pay for, or administer, analgesic drugs to cats, however, a survey indicated that 78% of owners expected analgesia to be provided routinely for surgery (including neutering), and 61% would expect animals to be discharged with analgesics. (3)

According to the WSAVA pain management guidelines (4), the use of preventative/multimodal analgesia, along with careful tissue handling and adherence to good surgical principles is strongly recommended. The guidelines additionally suggest that analgesia following castration or ovariohysterectomy/ovariectomy may be required for up to 3 days after surgery using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

1 Hunt JR, Knowles TG, Lascelles BD and Murrell JC. Prescription of perioperative analgesics by UK small animal veterinary surgeons in 2013. Vet Rec 2015; 176:493.
2 Vaisanen MAM, Tuomikoski SK, Vainio OM. Behavioural alterations and severity of pain in cats recovering at home following elective ovariohysterectomy or castration. J AM Vet Med Assoc 2007; 231:  236-242.
3 Demetriou JL, Geddes, RF and Jeffery ND. Survey of pet owners’ expectations of surgical practice within first opinion veterinary clinics in Great Britain. J Small Anim Pract 2009; 50: 478-487.
4 Mathews K, Kronen, PW, Lascelles D et al. Guidelines for recognition, assessment and treatment of pain. Journal of Small Animal Practice 2014, 6: E10-E68