Treating Pain = Good Medicine

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Treating pain promotes healthy healing. What products and solutions should reps be discussing with their veterinary clinic customers?

One of the hardest things about being a pet owner is seeing your animal in pain. Whether caused by an accident or injury, post-operative or arthritis-related pain, controlling or eliminating discomfort is paramount to anyone who loves their pet. Alleviating pain isn’t just about compassionate care. It’s also good medicine since treating pain promotes healthy healing.

It’s hard to imagine, but not all that long ago; it was commonly believed that some pain was good for animals in certain situations. It was assumed that an animal in pain would be less active following an injury or surgery. The reality is that just like with humans, untreated pain slows healing time, suppresses the immune system, and interferes with sleep while properly treating it shortens hospitalization times and improves mobility.

Innovation in pain management

The pain phenomenon is complex, and not all pain is created equal, so the most effective treatment plan is often multimodal pain management. This could include a combination of supplements, pharmaceuticals, and nonpharmacologic treatments like laser therapy, acupuncture, massage, or therapeutic exercise.

The importance of pain management is evidenced by the recent introduction of new products and treatments. In just the last 18 months, we’ve seen the revised 2022 AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats released; the first products in a new class of medications for management of osteoarthritis (OA) pain in dogs and cats; a targeted joint treatment using medical radiotherapy; and an advanced canine joint supplement for all life stages.

It’s not often that I’m happy to see a TV commercial, but I’ve been glad to see the ads for Solensia (frunevetmab) over the past few months, since they raise awareness of feline OA. Research has shown that up to 90% of cats develop signs of arthritis as they get older, with nearly half experiencing pain. Unlike dogs, cats rarely limp from arthritis, and the lack of recognition of arthritis pain is so common among cat owners that it’s estimated that less than 1% of cats experiencing pain are treated by veterinarians.

Until Zoetis received FDA approval for Solensia in January 2022, treatment options for cats with OA were very limited. Solensia was the first treatment for control of OA pain in cats and the first monoclonal antibody (mAb) drug approved by the FDA for any animal species. The active ingredient in Solensia – frunevetmab – is a feline-specific monoclonal antibody (a type of protein) designed to recognize and attach to nerve growth factor (NGF) proteins that are involved in the regulation of pain. When frunevetmab binds to NGF, it prevents the pain signal from reaching the brain and so can improve cats’ activity levels and overall quality of life.

Solensia is administered as a monthly subcutaneous injection and dosed based on the weight of the animal. This eliminates compliance issues for cat owners who may have difficulty giving a daily medication at home and gives the veterinarian an excellent opportunity to monitor the pet on a regular basis.

Librela – the latest monoclonal antibody treatment for dogs from Zoetis – just received FDA approval in May and should be available late this year. Like Solensia, Librela (bedinvetmab) controls canine OA pain by targeting nerve growth factor with a monthly subcutaneous injection. Librela can be given to dogs at any stage of OA, so treatment can begin at the very first signs of arthritis pain and there are no weight restrictions. Librela has only been evaluated in dogs at least a year old and for OA in the joints of limbs – not in dogs with arthritis in the spine.

While it’s new to the U.S. market, Librela and Solensia have been used in Europe for over two years, with veterinarians administering over 4.6 million doses. Another talking point to discuss with your clinics is that European veterinarians gave treatment with Librela an overall satisfaction rating of 8.6 on a scale of 10 – the highest rating of all OA medications they evaluated. An important point to mention is the risk to veterinary staff giving the injections. Women who are pregnant, trying to conceive or breastfeeding need to take particular care to avoid self-injection, since there is a potential for hypersensitivity reactions like anaphylaxis.

Another innovative canine arthritis treatment is Synovetin OA from Exubrion Therapeutics. Using a similar treatment approach that has been used in Europe to treat chronic joint pain in humans, Synovetin OA is a targeted treatment using the active agent tin-117m, a unique conversion electron therapeutic veterinary device. Tin-117m microparticles injected directly into the OA-diseased joint, target and eliminate the two underlying drivers of joint disease – inflammatory macrophages and synoviocytes that create ongoing, progressive inflammation and pain. Unlike pain drugs, this non-systemic treatment has an exceptional safety profile, and one injection provides pain relief for up to a full year.

Preventing joint damage and arthritis in the first place is the optimum goal, and Virbac’s Movoflex Advanced Soft Chews were developed to help sustain joint health in dogs through all life stages, including young dogs to support their joints as they age. According to the manufacturer, the five key ingredients of eggshell membrane, Hyaluronic acid, Astaxanthin, Boswellia serrata and krill meal combine to show an increase in mobility in as little as seven days with no loading dose. Movoflex chews for small dogs (up to 40 lbs), medium (40-80 lbs) and large (over 80 lbs) are available in 60 count jars.

Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of chronic pain, affecting nearly 40% of dogs and at least 50% of cats. Untreated pain of any type is something that no pet should experience. The change of opinion towards pain and the emphasis on preventing and treating it has been one of the biggest benefits to pet well-being in veterinary medicine. Discussing the many new products and treatment options with your customers will help them provide the best in pain management to improve their patients’ quality of life.


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