Pets often hide pain. When we humans are in pain, we generally talk about it. Your pets can’t tell you where or how much it hurts but they suffer from pain just as we do. Animals have evolved to hide their pain as a protection against predators.  

Acute and Chronic Pain

  • Acute or predictable pain from surgery or injury is usually short-term. Acute pain is obvious and troubling.
  • Chronic pain, which is often progressive and long-term, can be subtle and difficult to recognize. It may be masked or dismissed as ‘aging’ or ‘slowing down’.

Recognizing Clues Indicating Pain

Paying attention to the little clues that indicate your pet is hurting is very important because unrecognized and untreated pain may lead to other health issues, which erode your pet’s quality of life, such as:

  • Immune suppression
  • Digestive troubles
  • Insomnia

Signs of pain in dogs can include:

  • Sad or anxious expression
  • Unwilling to move or interact socially – not greeting you as usual
  • Yelping, whimpering, or whining more
  • Restlessness
  • Limping, crouching or change in posture
  • Changes in eating and drinking patterns
  • Sleeping more
  • Shaky legs or trembling
  • Difficulty moving, rising or lying down
  • Difficulty going up and down stairs or jumping
  • Difficulty in urinating or defecating
  • Self-mutilation – chewing
  • Increased aggression – growling, pinning their ears back, and even biting
  • Generally avoiding the things that they would normally like to do

Signs of pain in cats can include:

  • Reduced activity or loss of curiosity
  • Changes in litter box routine
  • Hunching – sitting or walking in a hunched position
  • Stiff posture
  • Changes in behavior, such as sleeping more
  • A decrease or loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Not being able to jump up on a bed or couch
  • Increased or decreased licking and grooming or not wanting to be groomed
  • Changes in appearance – cat becoming greasy or scruffy
  • Hiding – not wanting to interact with their family
  • An aggressive reaction to touch, such as biting, hissing or spitting

Diagnosis and Treatment of Pain

If you suspect that your pet is suffering, contact you veterinarian for an evaluation. Besides a thorough examination, the veterinary health care team will use a variety of tools and inventories to diagnose the pain and its severity before starting an appropriate pain management protocol.

This protocol can include medications, individualized diet for healthy weight, and other therapies such as supplementation and massage. When a pet is in pain, comfort is crucial so recommendations will be made to increase comfort level, such as padded beds, raised food and water dishes or litter box with lowered sides and ramps for stair access. Once pain is relieved your pet can get back to activities and keep moving for a longer, healthier and happier life.

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