I thought that since September is animal pain awareness month, it would be a good time to share my thoughts on pain with you, our concerned pet owners. First I will talk about some preconceived assumptions about our pets and their pain levels, and then some typical symptoms of pain in animals.
First, the assumptions:
Assumption 1 – “My pet does not feel pain or he would show me.”
Truth – Your pet has inherited a unique skill from his wild cousins. In the wild, the ill or injured animal will be left behind or attacked as they are the most vulnerable to predators. So wild animals instinctively hide their pain or other signs of weakness. Since we do not want our best friends suffering because of this instinctive behaviour, we need to watch them closely, looking for subtle changes that might indicate pain or discomfort.
Assumption 2– “My dog is very stoic and can deal with pain.”
Truth – Your pet has difficulty communicating that he is feels chronic pain. And yes, he loves you, so will try to please you and be his regular cheery self. But he still deserves to be pain free.
Assumption 3– “My pet is holding her leg up but it’s not because of pain.”
Truth – If we think about this logically, it doesn’t make sense. What would make us hold our leg up or hop on one leg? Discomfort? Pain? That’s the most likely answer unless we are performing in a Broadway musical! Not all pain is that searing acute pain, like the pain we feel after we break a bone or hit our thumb with a hammer. Some pain is a low level pain, either constant or intermittent, like arthritic pain, or a toothache, or a muscle cramp. These may be bearable if they would pass in a few minutes or hours but what if these types of pains would linger for days. I think we would all demand pain relief for ourselves. We should also seek it for our four legged best friends.
Now, the signs of pain in animals:
Since these signs can be very subtle, we must look for the clues.
- There could be a change in their normal habits. Sometimes this can be the first sign of discomfort
- The pet may be withdrawn. The pet may spend more time alone than usual, or be less interested in being with the family, or find a quiet place to relax
- They could be more unsettled or restless than usual. This is often noticed more at night.
- They may have a decreased appetite
- They may drop food out of their mouth while eating
- They may lick at the site of pain
- They may be slow rising after laying down
- They may have difficulty doing stairs, or may hesitate to do stairs or jump up or down.
Any or all of these signs above can be clues that your pet is feeling pain and needs some form of pain reliever.
If you’re reading these blogs, then I know you guys love your pets as much as I love mine. You do not want to see or feel that they are in any form of discomfort that you could prevent. If you recognize any of these signs in your own pet or feel he or she may be uncomfortable, make an appointment with us to talk about options for your pet. Making sure our pets do not feel any unnecessary pain is just another way we can make our pets that much more happier in our loving homes.
Dr. David Costello