New 2015 AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats


New 2015 AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats now available, emphasize effective pain management is a team effort.

 LAKEWOOD, Colo. – The robust advances in pain management for companion animals underlie the decision of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) to expand on the information provided in the previous 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 research and knowledge.

“The management of pain is crucial component in every veterinary practice,” said Mark Epstein, DVM, DABVP (C/F) CVPP, guidelines co-chair. “Practices should be committed to educating the entire healthcare team about prevention, recognition, assessment, and treatment of pain. Alleviating pain is not only a professional obligation, but also a key contributor to successful case outcomes and enhancement of the veterinarian-client-patient relationship.” 

Effective pain management is an essential component of companion animal medicine. It can reduce 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 health care team members should have a defined role in the practice’s approach to providing compassionate care to its patients. 

“Pain management requires a continuum of care that includes anticipation, early intervention, and evaluation of response for every individual patient,” said Ilona Rodan, DVM, DABVP (F), guidelines co-chair.  “A team-oriented approach, that also includes the owner, is essential for maximizing the recognition, prevention, and treatment of pain for our patients. Client education is also a key component that enables the pet owner to manage pain in the home.” 

The 2015 guidelines differ from the 2007 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 three years.

The 2015 AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats are available here.

For more information on AAHA, visit: www.aaha.orgFor more information on the AAFP visit:

These guidelines were prepared by a task force of experts convened by the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners 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.


About The American Animal Hospital Association:
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) is the only organization in the United States and Canada that accredits companion animal hospitals based on standards that meet or exceed state regulations. Established in 1933, the Association is well-known among veterinarians for its leadership in the profession, high standards for veterinary practices and pet health care, and most importantly, its accreditation of companion-animal practices. Visit for more information.

About The American Association of Feline Practitioners:
The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) improves the health and welfare of cats by supporting high standards of practice, continuing education and scientific investigation. The AAFP has a long-standing reputation and track record in the veterinary community for facilitating high standards of practice and publishes guidelines for practice excellence which are available to veterinarians at the AAFP website. Over the years, the AAFP has encouraged veterinarians to continuously re-evaluate preconceived notions of practice strategies in an effort to advance the quality of feline medicine practiced. The Cat Friendly Practice program was created to improve the treatment, handling, and overall healthcare provided to cats. Its purpose is to equip veterinary practices with the tools, resources, and information to elevate the standard of care provided to cats. For more information, visit:


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