Archived Story

Pet advice: Identify your pet’s pain

Published 9:03pm Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Whether it’s our dogs or cats, we don’t want them to be in pain. Although there can be many different situations and diseases that can cause pain, how do you know if your pet is in pain? Accidentally stepping on your dog’s paw with the dog crying out and is whimpering.  Yes, that’s an obvious sign of pain. But the same dog is suddenly carrying the leg you stepped on, but it has been hours since that happened and wasn’t doing it earlier. YES, your dog is still in pain, but it’s not so cut and dry.
Dogs and cats can show pain in different ways. And to make this topic more difficult, there are stoic dogs and cats that almost never show obvious pain. However, once you know what to look for, it becomes relatively easy to identify pain.
For both dogs and cats, typical obvious signs may include whining, screaming, abnormal barking, hissing, carrying a limb (usually trauma related), thrashing around, sensitivity or aggressive behavior when touching a specific spot, and constant licking or chewing at a wound. Some not so obvious signs may include a hunched back, abnormal sitting or lying positions, constantly holding their head down, stiffness, slowed movement, restlessness, poor grooming, decreased or no appetite, bathroom accidents even when house-trained, silent when usually vocal or just not acting right.
Some stoic dogs and cats may show a vacant, wide-eyed expression when in pain.  However, these not so obvious signs can be a challenge. Bathroom accidents, such as urinating in the house, may be a sign of diabetes, but it can also be a painful sign of a urinary tract infection. Poor grooming, as in a cat, may indicate neck pain or a cat who is so overweight, he or she can no longer reach.
Some signs may be age-related, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be painful. And cats may show a unique method when they are in pain. The primary method is to retreat. As seen in the wild, cats tend to hide for long periods of time with no obvious reason, but it’s usually because they are in pain.
Whatever the causes or symptoms of pain, it’s always best to consult your veterinarian for professional advice to any questions of whether your pet is in pain, what’s causing it and possible safe and proper therapy.

Boorus Yim BS, MS, DVM
Pamlico Animal Hospital
Associate Veterinarian

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