Understanding Pain in Pets and Planning for the Future

A white cat on a cushionSeptember is Animal Pain Awareness Month, marking a great opportunity to recognize and address pain in pets. While most pet owners are dialed into obvious changes, such as a pet’s inability to go up/down stairs or reluctance to jump onto the couch or bed, there are a bevy of other indicators of pain in pets. Even if your pet doesn’t have age-related problems yet, it’s a good idea to be prepared for the future.

Pain Management

If we have a headache, muscle pain, or joint tenderness, we can easily rely on over-the-counter pain relief medications to take the edge off. Our pets have a different story. Even if we could know instinctively when they’re in pain (or better yet, if they could simply tell us when they hurt), we cannot give them human pain medications due to their potential for toxic poisoning.

Looking for Signs

Fluffy and Fido cannot divulge where they hurt or why, leaving it up to us to watch closely for even the slightest hint of pain. Unfortunately, animals are naturally inclined to hide any signs of illness or injury as a method of self-preservation. The wild relatives of our domesticated pets were hunted by predators, and any hint of physical weakness could lead to their demise.

Develop an Understanding

You probably have a highly tuned-in sense of your pet’s unique body language, behavioral patterns, and personal proclivities. For instance, a pet who’s always jumped up onto higher surfaces but now struggles to stand after laying down for any period is likely enduring physical pain. Also watch for any of these red flags:

  • Sudden onset shivering or shaking
  • Excessive panting (even without exertion)
  • Reluctance to climb stairs, jump, or move around
  • General irritability or agitation
  • Visibly shies away from being touched
  • Limping
  • Lethargy and lack of interest in getting up/moving around
  • Hiding

Please contact us if you notice any of the above symptoms of general pain in pets. Also, take notes once you begin to see certain shifts in your pet’s behaviors or preferences; bring them to your pet’s appointment. Together, we can figure out how to make your pet more comfortable.

Treating Pain in Pets

Fortunately, the field of pet pain management is quickly growing, and there are many choices to alleviate your pet’s pain, such as:

  • Nutritional supplements (e.g., omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Opioids such as morphine

As they age, pain in pets is typically related to osteoarthritis, cancer, dental disease, hip dysplasia, or another age-related condition. For the life of every pet, great dental hygiene, maintaining a healthy weight, and regular exercise can thwart many contributing factors to pain.

Keep the Golden Years Golden

Our veterinarians and staff are committed to helping you provide special care for your senior pet so you can make sure his or her golden years are safe, comfortable, and relatively pain-free.

If you have additional questions or concerns related to pain management or senior pet care, please let us know.

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