painfully aware: symptoms of pain in pets

Posted by Dr. Jules Benson on Mar 30 2010


Our main priority as responsible pet owners is to give our four-legged companions the best life possible. Sometimes that means helping them cope with pain or discomfort in the best and most compassionate way possible. This obviously starts with knowing when our pets are in pain.

The ways that our pets exhibit pain span a huge spectrum, some pets being incredibly stoic (most Bulldogs) to big babies (most Labs!). It also depends on the species of pet; because they evolved as solitary hunters, cats tend to be better at hiding signs of pain whereas our dogs developed as pack animals and can be much better at telling their pack- mates (that would be you!) that they need help. The most common signs associated with pain are

  • Loss of appetite
  • Being unusually quiet or unresponsive
  • Unusual behavior (aggressive or submissive)
  • Avoiding being petted or handled OR seeking more attention than usual
  • Hiding (very common for cats in pain)
  • Difficulty getting comfortable


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Again, cats can be much more difficult to spot and the top sign to look for are probably drop in appetite, hiding in unusual places and avoiding people/other pets.


Pets displaying any of the signs above should be seen by a veterinarian. A physical exam, blood work and radiographs are the starting place to try and find out what’s ailing your beloved buddy.

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