When was the last time you reached for an aspirin? Was it this morning when yesterday’s workout was catching up to you? Or was it for that knee pain that still haunts you from an old sports injury?
Now – when was the last time you thought about your pet and pain? Pain in animals is sometimes very difficult to assess. We all know that an animal is feeling pain when it is limping or refusing to bear weight on a limb. And anyone who has ever had a dog with neck or back pain knows that those pets are pretty demonstrative when they hurt – and certainly anybody who has ever experienced neck or back pain themselves can attest to how excruciating that pain can be. But, what about the animals who are in chronic pain? Those whose joints ache, or bellies hurt or mouths throb? How do they express discomfort?
Dogs and cats deal with pain in many different ways, some of which are fairly subtle. An animal who is in pain will tend to withdraw. He or she may sleep more, or seek out secluded locations to hide - away from their normal resting spots. Both dogs and cats who are experiencing pain may show signs of aggression that are out of character. They may resent being picked up or petted, and may be fearful of being approached. Pain-afflicted dogs may pant more, while cats in pain will stop grooming themselves. Frequently, uncomfortable animals will eat less or stop eating at all, especially if they have pain associated with dental disease. A pained animal may have an abnormal posture. Abdominal pain can cause a hunched posture, while neck pain will leave an animal holding its head in a fixed position. Reluctance to move, trembling and hiding can all be subtle signs of pain in animals. I’ve even seen very pained cats purr constantly in what I can only assume is an attempt at self-soothing.
We all know pain. We have all experienced pain. We have all treated our own pain with all sorts of methods. Our animals suffer pain just as we can, but they may demonstrate it in very different ways. Luckily for our pets, pain relief is a hot topic in today’s veterinary practice. Pay attention to your pet and if you suspect that he or she is in pain, or if your pet has a chronic disease that could be painful, speak to your veterinarian, but never try to treat your pet’s discomfort on your own. Pain management in animals has many similarities to pain management in people, but our pets may not tolerate the medications that we can. Join forces with your veterinarian to help control your pet’s pain.