Certified Veterinary Pain Practitioner: The Road to Recovery


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A Certified Veterinary Pain Practitioner can serve as a knowledgeable guide for clients navigating pain management.

As a veterinary nurse, Tasha McNerney, BS, CVT, CVPP, VTS (Anesthesia) saw that there was a real need in veterinary medicine to improve the way practices help clients recover following surgical procedures, or manage chronic pain as they got older. That’s why she signed up to go through the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management’s (IVAPM) Certified Veterinary Pain Practitioner (CVPP) program. Though it took her about 18 months of studying, writing up cases, and taking the test, she said the commitment was well worth it.

“My VTS in Anesthesia prepared me for treating acute and surgical pain, but the CVPP helped me to understand all of the pain pathways and how they fit together when creating an analgesic plan,” she said. “It also taught me about chronic pain and how wind-up and neuroplasticity can have serious negative effects on patients who do not have their pain properly addressed.”

The program is open to licensed veterinary professionals (veterinarians as well as technicians) with a minimum of five years in full time practice and at least two years of clinical experience working with animals in pain. The certification program emphasizes the value of the many disciplines capable of enhancing patient comfort and quality of life and educates about a variety of modalities.

Having someone on staff that is CVPP certified can benefit a veterinary practice, McNerney said. The staff member will have an increased knowledge of pain mechanisms and can work together with the clinician and the client to determine the best pain control strategy for the patient. Also, many CVPPs go on to become certified in rehabilitation or acupuncture so they can offer even more analgesic modalities to the clients (which creates greater revenue and job satisfaction for the CVPP).

Those with CVPP certification can work together with pet owners and veterinarians to provide the best pain management plans for patients in several ways. In an article for Today’s Veterinary Nurse, McNerney listed three:

  1. Assess the patient’s current status and pain management regimen and, together with the owner and veterinarian, create a pain management plan specific to that patient for the best overall outcome.
  2. Assist in the acute pain management setting, helping clinics to create protocols under a veterinarian’s guidance for postoperative pain scoring and proper analgesic techniques for acute surgical pain.
  3. Act as a point person the pet owner can contact and relay information to about the pet’s progress. The CVPP can then take this information and work with the veterinarian to make changes to the analgesic plan as necessary to ensure the best outcome for that patient.

McNerney said CVPP is an important certification because pets are thought of as family, and pet parents are willing to go the extra mile for their family members. “Analgesic therapies like massage, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, CBD, and laser therapy, are all becoming increasingly popular as people look for alternatives to simply throwing opioids at the problem like we did 10 years ago, or worse – simply not treating pain for fear the animal would ‘be too active and injure itself,’” she said. “As these outdated ideas around pain management go by the wayside, we start to see the possibility of truly integrated medicine for our pet patients experiencing either acute or chronic pain.”

The CVPP designation allows you to think of pain as a multifaceted subject, not a one-off symptom that can be cured with a dose of medication, McNerney said. “By becoming a CVPP you will use the information to make better, more multimodal analgesic and surgical protocols, and contribute to longer, healthier lives for your patients.”

Pain awareness

The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) educates and informs pet owners about their pet’s health and well-being when it comes to pain management, be it acute or chronic pain. IVAPM has proclaimed September as Animal Pain Awareness Month, and this coincides with human medicine’s Pain Awareness Month. Animals suffer from pain just like people do. Pain comes in many forms: surgical pain, arthritis and cancer related pain, just to name a few. Acute pain is obvious and distressing. Chronic pain can be subtle, and masked as “getting old” or “slowing down.” Old age is not a disease, but pain is. There are many options to treat the various causes of pain in animals including pain medications, physical rehabilitation, acupuncture, laser therapy, and therapeutic massage.

“The proclamation of the month is in keeping with IVAPM’s commitment to encouraging pain management for all animal species through education and advocacy,” the organization said on its website. During this annual campaign, IVAPM also encourages various veterinary organizations to raise public awareness about pain and pain management as it pertains to veterinary patients.

For a look at IVAPM’s resources to help your veterinary practices prepare for next year’s Pain Awareness Month, visit: ivapm.org/animal-pain-awareness-month.


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