American Association of Feline Practitioners

Veterinary professionals passionate about the care of cats

Pain Management Guidelines

2015 AAFP/AAHA Pain Management Guidelines

Updates Since Publication

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The AAFP and American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) have collaboratively expanded on the information provided in the 2007 AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. The 2015 Guidelines represent a consensus of expert opinions that summarize and offer a discriminating review of new knowledge.

Effective pain management is an essential component of companion animal medicine. It reduces disease, morbidity, facilitates recovery, and enhances quality of life. These Guidelines are particularly helpful for busy clinicians because they efficiently consolidate current recommendations and insights from experts in pain management. Pain management in clinical practice is a team effort, with the pet owner functioning as an integral part of the team. All healthcare team members should have a defined role in the practice's approach to providing compassionate care to its patients.

The 2015 Guidelines differ from the earlier version in several ways:

  • The first sections contains general concepts designed to "set the stage" for the remaining, more specific content.
  • The 2015 Guidelines also discuss the importance of an integrated approach to managing pain that does not rely strictly on analgesic drugs. Because pain assessment in animals has become more scientifically grounded in recent years, various clinically validated instruments for scoring pain in both dogs and cats are described.
  • A section on feline degenerative joint disease has been added due to the increased awareness of this painful condition in cats over the last few years.
  • The extensive list of published references includes numerous recent studies published within the last 3 years.

These guidelines were prepared by a task force of experts convened by the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the American Animal Hospital Association for the express purpose of producing this article. These guidelines are supported by a generous educational grant to AAHA from Abbott Animal Health, Elanco Companion Animal Health, Merial, Novartis Animal Health, and Zoetis and are endorsed by the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management and International Society of Feline Medicine. They were subjected to review in accordance with both AAFP and AAHA policies.