Dogs Receive More Post-op Pain Management than Cats

Research by a vet website, dvm360, tells us that dog owners opt for pain management drugs for their companion animal after an operation more often than cat owners do for their cats.

I’ll say it again slightly differently; what this research is telling us is that when cat and dog owners are given the option to decide whether or not to administer post-op pain killers to their companion animal, dog owners are more likely to take up that option.

The charts from the dvm360 website show this but with great respect the charts are difficult to read because they have layered one set of percentages over another.

Dog and Cat Pain Management
Dog and Cat Pain Management comparison after spaying operation
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Despite the difficulties with the presentation of the data the information is pretty clear. To take one set of figures (in order to simplify complicated and confusing statistics):

By my calculation using the charts (if I am incorrect please correct me), after a spaying operation on a dog one fifth (20%) of one quarter (25%) opted not to give their dog pain killers after the operation. This is very surprising. This means that 5% of dog owners decide not to give painkillers.

For cats the figures are 26% of 25% which is 6.5%. In other words 6.5% of cat owners decide not to give painkillers to their cats after a spaying operation.

There is a distinct difference. What the dvm360 website does not do is to explain why there is this marked difference. There may be a good, medical reason for this disparity. However, it is more likely that on average cat owners are more distanced from their cat emotionally because cats are more independent and hide pain very well. This slightly lower emotional connection results in less empathy for their cat and therefore less of a motivation to be concerned about their cat feeling pain or not.

It would seem to me that this lower bracket of people who don’t wish to administer pain killers after a pretty big operation such as spaying are those who are not good cat caretakers. A percentage of people are like this. Surely it is a no-brainer for all caring cat caretakers that their cat requires standard post-operative pain management.

Both for dogs and cats the veterinarian gave the client the option to decide whether or not to administer post-operative pain management 20% of the time. That surprises me by the way. I’d have thought pain management was 100% mandatory.

This research on pain management is inline with the disparity in the number of visits of dogs and cats to veterinary clinics (also please see this article). Dogs are taken to the vet more often than cats and more money is spent at the vets on dogs than for cats. The same human mentality is at play: a slight disconnect between human and cat compared to human and dog because the dog is more needy and more in the face of the human caretaker. That’s my theory. What is yours?!

There is also a perceived disparity in the punishment meted out to cat and dog abusers when convicted. This is part of the same story in my view.


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