Unexpected way man's best friend is affected by opioid crisis

Unexpected way man's best friend is affected by opioid crisis

It's a troubling trend at one local animal hospital — owners who say their pet is in pain, but the veterinarian is not so sure.

Different reasons for needing surgery, but the dogs at Angell Medical Center share something in common: pain.

"We have taken veterinary medicine to a level of care that's similar to humans, so we use everything that they use in the human market," said Virginia Sinnott-Stutzman.

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That would include opioid painkillers.

"Yup... He's getting buprenorphine," said Sinnott-Stutzman.

Dr. Sinnott-Stutzman is an emergency care veterinarian at Angell Medical Center in Jamaica Plain. Her patients don't get addicted to opioids, but she says increasingly, animal hospitals are feeling the effects of the human opioid crisis.

"There are these situations that feel, honestly, just off," she said.

Those situations involve addicts using their pets to procure opioids by trying to convince doctors the animal is in pain.

"Usually it's people who have a sophisticated knowledge of the names of the drugs...how the drugs come, pill sizes...things nondoctors wouldn't know," she said.

And they've seen even worse. Animals intentionally injured so their owners could obtain opioids for themselves.

"And that's happened once or twice," she said.

At Angell Medical Center, opioids are primarily used after operations.

Lola had surgery Thursday morning and she's on methadone for pain. Most pets in this situation are able to switch off to less potent painkillers within a few days.

But pets in chronic pain often rely on opioids long-term and some owners are finding, at the very least, they are jumping through more hoops to get them.

"Nowadays I think people are, you know treating their pets just like a beloved child or family member," said Sinnott-Stutzman.

Albeit one who cannot tell you how much they're hurt.