Attitudes and perceptions of veterinary paraprofessionals in New Zealand to postoperative pain in dogs and cats

AIM: To survey the attitudes and perceptions of veterinary paraprofessionals in New Zealand to postoperative pain in dogs and cats.

METHODS: In December 2011, veterinary paraprofessionals (VP) from throughout New Zealand were invited to participate in an online survey. Eleven questions, which were divided into five sections, were used to determine demographic information, the respondents’ assessment of pain after commonly performed surgeries in dogs and cats, their opinions on provision of analgesia, who had responsibility for pain monitoring and the use of any formal pain scoring system in the practice.

RESULTS: Data from 165 respondents were able to be used, and 162 (98%) respondents to the survey were female. According to the respondents’ estimates, fracture repair in dogs and repair of diaphragmatic hernias in cats had the highest pain score following surgery. Neutering procedures involving dogs were scored higher than for cats (p<0.01). All respondents agreed that animals benefit from perioperative analgesia. The veterinary nurse was reported to be predominantly responsible for monitoring pain in animals postoperatively by 116/165 (70.3%) respondents. Of 165 respondents, 154 (93%) considered that their knowledge of pain and assessment of pain could be enhanced.

CONCLUSIONS: This survey reflects the attitudes and perceptions of a sample of VP in New Zealand to postoperative pain in dogs and cats. The results indicate that all respondents believe that surgery results in sufficient pain to warrant analgesic therapy. Routine neutering surgeries were considered to be more painful in dogs than in cats. The current survey also provides information to educators on potential areas of focus, given that 93% of respondents felt that their knowledge of pain and assessment of pain could be enhanced.