September is Pet Pain Awareness Month
Many of us deal with some type of chronic pain daily. We often receive some type of therapy for it, from physical therapy to medication. However, far too often we fail to recognize the clues and signs of chronic pain in our pets.
A Major Cause of Suffering For our Pets
We all are able to recognize acute or sudden pain by our dog or cat screaming, crying, or growling uncharacteristically when handled. Generally, if your pet will not bear weight on a leg or is limping, it is in pain.
is often a dull, aching pain that increases gradually over time. Since chronic pain starts slowly and gradually increases with time, our pets do not always exhibit obvious pain. Many dogs and cats adjust, tolerate, and accept chronic pain, so often there are few clues to observe.
While some of the signs of chronic pain are similar in dogs and cats, many times they do not exhibit pain in the same way and it is important to recognize the possible signs of chronic pain.
Chronic Pain in Dogs
-Quietly Making Our Dogs Miserable
Some of the common signs of chronic pain in our dogs may be one or a combination of any of the following:
- Sitting or laying in an abnormal position
- Front legs and head on the floor with hindquarters in the air
- Resting in an usual position
- Stiff when walking (often seen initially only after rising to feet)
- Trembling or shaking
- Carrying tail down
- Slow to rise (this is a major sign often ignored)
- Decreased or absent appetite
- Slight limp
- Dull or less responsive
Chronic Pain in Cats
– Commonly Associated with Behavioral Changes
Some of the common signs of chronic pain in our cats may be one or a combination of the any of following:
- Changes in vocal patterns, including increased hissing, growling, and even purring
- Withdrawing from social interaction
- Decreased appetite
- Grooming less, looking unkept
- Changes in sleeping pattern, especially sleeping more
- Licking, biting, or scratching a particular area
- Restless, repetitively getting up and lying down
- Reluctancy to move
- Difficulty getting up from a laying position
- Trembling or shaking
- Not jumping as high
- Changes in facial expression including grimacing, furrowed brow, vacant stare, sleepy, enlarged pupils, or flattened ears
- Panting while resting
- No longer wanting to be held
- Any other behavior change that is out of character for the cat
If your cat exhibits any of these behaviors, have your cat evaluated for pain.
Pain in cats is often more difficult to recognize than in dogs. Cats will disguise their pain because it is necessary for survival in the wild. Cats that appear sick, injured, or in pain are more vulnerable to predators. This trait carries over into our households causing many cats to suffer unnecessarily unless subtle changes are noticed.
As a rule of thumb, the best way to identify physical pain in our animals is to determine if the problem would cause pain for a human. For instance, an ear infection is very painful so we know that it has to be painful in our pets.
The most common cause of chronic pain in our dogs and cats is osteoarthritis. Many of our older pets are suffering quietly. There are several myths that set the stage for this tragedy in our pets.
Myth #1: My pet is slowing down because of his age.
Fact: Except for geriatric individuals over 14 to 15 years of age, pets that are becoming slower at 7, 9, or 11 years of age have a medical problem. One of the most common problems is pain associated with osteoarthritis.
Myth #2: Our pets must not be having pain because they are not crying or screaming in pain.
Fact: Pets with chronic pain exhibit pain in a variety of ways that we fail to recognize. Except in advanced cases, pets will not cry out in pain.
Myth #3: I checked all the joints by bending and my pet showed no sign of pain.
Fact: Often the pain is not associated with passive flexing of the joints but active use of joints. If your pet is slow to raise or moving differently, pain is present.
Myth #4: It is simply arthritis, so there is not really anything that can be done.
Fact: Arthritis is painful and always has been painful. There is not any reason our pets must suffer from chronic pain because there are prescription pain relievers specifically for animals (do not use human medications on pets) and alternative treatments such as laser therapy and acupuncture.
No animal should suffer in pain. Please, have your pet evaluated for any behavior or action that could possibly be related to pain.
Important Fact – Anything that would cause you pain or discomfort will absolutely cause your pet pain or discomfort. Even if you don’t recognize the pain in your pet, they are in pain and dealing with it in their own ways. The pain of any pet should never be ignored.