In a world of ‘kill or be killed’, even predatory animals have evolved to hide signs of pain. This sometimes makes it very difficult for us to tell when our furry or feathered companions are in distress.
Certainly, when an animal has suffered a serious injury, the signs of pain are clear. However, for a lot of chronic conditions, the only indication may be subtle telltale signs or peculiar body language that you might or might not notice.
Today, veterinarians are able to manage pain in pet animals using several different approaches, including medical or surgical interventions, appropriate medications, diet, and judicious exercise.
During your pet’s routine annual or semi-annual examinations, your veterinarian will be looking for little clues that your pet may be suffering needlessly.
One or more of the following five symptoms may be signs that your animal is in pain:
1. Housesoiling accidents – if an animal is normally housebroken and fastidious in its elimination habits, having accidents in the house can be an indication of a problem such as a urinary tract infection, kidney disease, a bowel disorder, arthritis, or other painful diseases. Animals with sore joints may not be able to maneuver the stairs, while animals with an inflammatory condition of an internal organ may experience ‘urge incontinence’, where the urge to eliminate comes on so suddenly that they are unable to control it.
2. Inactivity or decreased desire to exercise – a lack of desire to go for a walk is often an obvious sign of discomfort in dogs, but cats often will sleep more or spend more time sitting or lying around.
The most common cause of inactivity in animals is degenerative joint disease; pets with joint problems will be reluctant to climb stairs, play or exercise. Since degenerative joint disease is often an age related problem, we often assume that the inactivity is related to age rather than pain.
3. Avoidance of petting or handling – if your pet avoids being picked up or petted, especially if your pet used to be a cuddler, it might mean that she feels pain when she is touched or handled in a certain part of her body, or that she is uncomfortable in general. The problem could be arthritis, tooth pain, ear pain, intestinal pain, nerve pain, etc.
4. Sudden weight change – pain can directly influence your pet’s eating habits and thus its weight. An animal that is in pain may not be able to comfortably bend down to eat and will therefore lose weight through lack of calories.
Conversely, an animal that is reluctant to move because of pain may gain weight due to lack of exercise if it continues to eat the same amount of food.
5. Abnormal behavior at the food dish – a pet that acts hungry by going over to the food dish, but then drops food out of its mouth or suddenly stops eating and walks away may have something wrong in the mouth. In these cases, the most common problem is dental disease, which is estimated to afflict over 2/3 of dogs and cats over the age of 3.
Other problems that could cause this sort of symptom include oral tumors and foreign material such as sticks or hair trapped between or around the teeth. Symptoms of oral cavity disease also include weight loss, bad breath, or rubbing the face along the carpet or furniture.
In most households, our pets are part of the family. Simply by being aware of what is normal for your pet, and observing when there are abnormal changes in habits or behavior, you can help ensure that your pet leads a happy life that is free of pain.
If you notice any of the above symptoms, contact us as soon as you can to arrange an appointment with your veterinarian.
Caution: These news items, written by Lifelearn Inc., are licensed to this practice for the personal use of our clients. Any copying, printing or further distribution is prohibited without the express written permission of Lifelearn Inc. Please note that the news information presented here is NOT a substitute for a proper consultation and/or clinical examination of your pet by our clinic veterinarian.