Painful Pets – How Do You Know?

As a pet owner it’s always concerning that are pets are programmed to hide pain. Since they are voiceless the only way to determine if they are in distress is to learn to read the signs they give us. When we live with pets we know their normal habits. So, the pet owner who observes behaviors will know quickly if their pet is acting in an abnormal manner. Sometimes these changes are subtle and are missed by busy households until the pain is severe.

dog in pain

Some of the first signs of pain you might notice in your pet, are changes in sleeping, drinking or eating patterns. When pets have painful teeth, they will continue to eat but sometimes with reluctance rather than gusto. You may also notice that they are protective of a part of their face when petted. Occasionally, you may even see them paw at their mouth. Pain can come from broken teeth, gum infections, abscesses and even objects stuck in between the teeth or in the roof of the mouth.  Sticks or rawhides are often found wedged between the upper or lower rows of teeth when dogs are allowed to chew on them unsupervised. An annual oral health exam by your doctors at Caring Hearts Animal Hospital in Matthews, NC will help keep dental issues resolved.

As pets age they develop arthritic changes similar to humans. You may notice them licking at a specific joint or seeming restless and unable to ever get comfortable when they lie down.  Pets may avoid being picked up, where in the past they enjoyed the closeness to their people. Dogs will even vocalize upon rising, just like humans who groan and grunt when they get up to move.  As the arthritis progresses you will notice that your cat is not jumping to perch or your dog is no longer able to climb stairs or hop up on your bed.  When the pain intensifies it is common to see panting when at rest, even though the pet is cool and has not had physical activity to cause heavy breathing.  Pets will also change their posture.  They will stand hunched or keep one foot elevated to avoid putting weight on that foot or leg.

Attitude can also be a sign that your pet hurts.  A normally friendly cat now hisses and hides when approached or the dog that demands belly rubs avoids rolling over because it hurts.  In the reverse, a dog that is typically bold and aggressive becomes docile and submissive.

House soiling can also indicate pain.  “Assuming the position” in elderly pets becomes challenging when required to balance and squat.  Sometimes using a towel as a sling under the chest can support and aid these elderly pets when walking or eliminating. Cats who are unable to properly groom their backs, belly and rear can also be experiencing pain.

PLEASE, do not medicate your pet with human products if you see signs of pain.  Medications like Ibuprofen cause death in animals as they do not metabolize the drugs like humans.  Our veterinarians have many pain control options to help.  The most important thing is to determine WHAT is causing your pet’s pain and seek to alleviate it as soon as possible.  Remember that our team has many years of education and experience behind our recommendations.  Your pet’s veterinarian is always the most scientifically trained and reliable resource for maintaining your pets best health.