2015 AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats

For a printable PDF of the Guidelines, click here.

To view or print the implementation toolkit, click here.


The robust advances in pain management for companion animals underlie the decision of AAHA and AAFP to expand on the information provided in the 2007 AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. The 2015 guidelines summarize and offer a discriminating review of much of this new knowledge. Pain management is central to veterinary practice, alleviating pain, improving patient outcomes, and enhancing both quality of life and the veterinarian-clientpatient relationship. The management of pain requires a continuum of care that includes anticipation, early intervention, and evaluation of response on an individual-patient basis. The guidelines include both pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic modalities to manage pain; they are evidence-based insofar as possible and otherwise represent a consensus of expert opinion. Behavioral changes are currently the principal indicator of pain and its course of improvement or progression, and the basis for recently validated pain scores. A team-oriented approach, including the owner, is essential for maximizing the recognition, prevention, and treatment of pain in animals. Postsurgical pain is eminently predictable but a strong body of evidence exists supporting strategies to mitigate adaptive as well as maladaptive forms. Degenerative joint disease is one of the most significant and under-diagnosed diseases of cats and dogs. Degenerative joint disease is ubiquitous, found in pets of all ages, and inevitably progresses over time; evidencebased strategies for management are established in dogs, and emerging in cats. These guidelines support veterinarians in incorporating pain management into practice, improving patient care. (J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 2015; 51:67–84. DOI 10.5326/JAAHA-MS-7331)

The Task Force acknowledges the contributions of Mark Dana of the Kanara Consulting Group, LLC, in the preparations of the 2015 AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats.

 AE, adverse event; CKD, chronic kidney disease; CMI, clinical measurement instrument; CRI, constant rate infusion; COX, cyclooxygenase; DJD, degenerative joint disease; GI, gastrointestinal; LA, local anesthetic; MPS, myofascial pain syndrome; NSAID, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug; OA, osteoarthritis; PSGAG, polysulfated glycosaminoglycan; SS(N)RI, selective serotonin (norepinephrine) reuptake inhibitor; TCA, tricyclic antidepressant; QOL, quality of life

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 endorsed by the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management. They were subjected to the same external review process as all JAAHA articles.

The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat your pet’s health problem or disease without consulting with a veterinarian. Please consult your veterinarian with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your pet’s condition.