iStock_000008259892_LargeWe have come a long way from the once popular notion that animals don’t experience pain. Not only do we know this to not be true, but we have better means than ever before to help prevent and treat pet pain. Learn what all owners need to know about pain in pets.

What Causes Pain?

Just like people, pets can have pain for a variety of reasons. Sometimes pain is long-term (chronic), and other times it is short-lived (acute). A few of the more common reasons that we encounter pets in pain include:

  • Due to an injury
  • During and after surgery
  • Secondary to a musculoskeletal condition such as arthritis
  • Abdominal pain such as that experienced with pancreatitis
  • Cancer

Pain is bad because it has a major negative effect on a pet’s quality of life. It also has the power to decrease the body’s ability to heal. For these reasons it is important to identify and treat pain as quickly and effectively as possible.

Detecting Pain in Pets

Animals aren’t really known for spending time feeling sorry for themselves. They are often much less obvious than we are about showing signs of pain, and to a less than observant pet owner, indications of pain can be easily missed.

Just because an animal isn’t complaining doesn’t mean he or she is not in pain. Many pets won’t show obvious signs of discomfort such as whining or stopping eating even if pain is severe.

Some more subtle signs that your pain may be in pain include:

  • Deviation from normal habits and behaviors
  • Decrease in activity level
  • Restlessness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Change in posture
  • Decreased grooming or obsessive grooming
  • Reluctance to move
  • Increased panting
  • Staring
  • Uncharacteristic aggression
  • Hiding or decreased social behavior
  • Changes in interactions with other pets in the household

If you are noticing any of these types of signs, it is best to have your pet examined so that we can help address any source of pain or discomfort.

How We Treat Pet Pain

Depending on the nature and severity of the pain a pet is experiencing, there are several things that we may do to help. Most pets that have pain benefit from some type of medication. These include:

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) – These drugs interfere with the body’s production of inflammatory factors that cause pain and inflammation and are related to human pain medications like ibuprofen.

Opioids – Opioids are related to morphine and work to lessen the brain’s perception of pain.

Corticosteroids –These medications are very potent anti-inflammatories as well and may be utilized in certain situations.

Other treatment modalities may also be used in addition to medications. These might include things like physical therapy, laser therapy, acupuncture, or nutritional supplements.

Be sure to let us know if you feel that your pet is in pain. It is tempting to administer medications at home, but avoid this as many human medications are harmful to pets.

Pain in pets is a very real thing. Thankfully, no pet has to suffer. Educating yourself about subtle signs of a problem in your pet is a great way to be sure that we can stop pain in its tracks.