Humans usually don’t have a hard time expressing pain; we can use speech, nonverbal cues or gestures to communicate with our families or medical providers about our physical discomfort. Animals, on the other hand, can’t directly communicate with their owners or veterinarians about how they are feeling, which is why it’s important for an owner to be observant of any changes in their pet’s behavior.
The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) celebrates September as “Animal Pain Awareness Month.” The intent of this campaign is to encourage pet owners to actively recognize signs of pain in their pets and seek immediate veterinary care when needed. IVAPM devotes itself to the promotion, enhancement and advancement of pain management in animals.
Let the pet doctors and staff of Valley Animal Hospital assess your pet’s health. Contact us to schedule an appointment today.
Common Signs of Pain
If your pet has reached adulthood or old age, you may very likely begin to notice some of these behaviors:
- Decreased activity – Your pet does not act like their usual self and may not be as playful.
- Decreased appetite – This can be a sign of mouth pain.
- Difficulty standing up after lying down – This may be a sign of osteoarthritis.
- Not going up or down stairs – This may be an early sign of the onset of osteoarthritis.
- Over licking or grooming specific areas – Your pet may be trying to inform you of localized pain.
- Unwillingness to jump onto surfaces – This mostly applies to cats.
Acute vs. Chronic Pain
Acute pain can be inflicted by a bodily injury and can persist until the injury heals; it is more apparent than chronic pain. Chronic pain is prolonged, lasts several weeks to months and can remain well past healing. This pain is less noticeable and can easily be mistaken with your pet slowing down due to “old age.” To give some examples, pain in animals can become present after a surgical procedure or with the onset of arthritis, cancer or other diseases.
Assessing Your Pet’s Behavior
In addition to looking out for some of the common signs of pain, the IVAPM suggests that you look out for behaviors expressed by your pet’s type. For example, a dog may whimper, groan or cry when it is touched or while it is moving. It may want to hide, avoid being petted, brushed, held or picked up. At rest, it can even pant or tremble.
A cat can display unusual or excessive purring, hissing or growling. It may also breathe rapidly with its mouth open. If in pain, your cat may have trouble getting in and out of its litter box or will stop grooming altogether or on specific areas of the body.
Both dogs and cats may have trouble walking or running, will sleep in unusual positions, express unusual forms of aggression or have changes in eye expression when something is wrong. If your dog or cat has displayed any of these symptoms, it may be time to schedule a visitation with our pet hospital so that we can give them appropriate care.
What You Can Do
In order for your pet to live a healthy and happy life, it is important for you to educate yourself on how to best prevent pain that may result from injury or disease. Providing the best environment possible for your pet is a great way to start. Your pet should have access to fresh water at all times, consume a healthy diet, have a comfortable rest and play area and receive annual checkups.
Being proactive with your pet’s health can lead to a better life for them. However, you should also be knowledgeable of the different conditions that your pet may potentially experience in its lifetime. Doing so can reduce the amount of pain they may face because you will be able to get them the proper care and treatment sooner rather than later.
For example, you can research your animal’s breed and study the facts. Genetic features may predict future health complications (this is especially true for dogs). Our vets can also provide a list of specific issues for you to look out for as your pet grows. Finally, if any of your pet’s symptoms worsen or do not go away, don’t wait to contact us.
How We Can Help
Our McAllen vets are ready to perform checkups on all types of animals and will schedule diagnostic tests to get to the root of your pet’s health issues. Additionally, we provide several health care services so that your pet may have optimal health from the get-go. You can call us at 956.787.2709 to schedule an appointment or for emergencies.