There’s probably nothing worse than knowing your pet is experiencing pain. Pain in pets may occur after a surgery or a recent injury, such as a fracture. But did you know that many times pets may be in pain without the pet owner knowing? Cats, in particular, are adept at masking pain. Dogs, too, may exhibit their pain in ways that you don’t associate with discomfort, like personality changes or aggression. 

To better understand pain in pets, the team at Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital is here to explore the mechanisms of pain and how to identify the signs.

How Pets Experience Pain

Despite the fact that we are different species, pets experience pain in the same ways we do. This is because they have similar neural pathways at work in developing and experiencing the sensation of pain. Their nervous systems are much like our own, whether they are experiencing pain from dental disease to a sore stomach. 

Unlike us, however, many pets have an instinct to hide their pain. There is good reason for this. In the wild, if an animal is sick or injured, they are more susceptible to being preyed upon. To mask pain is a survival instinct. 

There are some common signs of pain, despite your pet’s instinct to hide them. These include:

  • Howling or crying
  • Inability to get comfortable lying down
  • Sleeping more or less
  • Appetite loss
  • Lack of self-grooming (cats)
  • Hiding (in cats and dogs, but more likely in cats)
  • Panting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Shivering
  • Crouching down
  • Chewing or biting on body parts
  • Rigidity
  • Lameness, hobbling
  • Aggression

Unfortunately, if the pain shows up in physical symptoms, your pet may have been in pain for awhile. Follow up right away by making an appointment for your pet to be seen. 

Treating Pain in Pets

Treating pet pain is not a one size fits all approach. Rather, we focus on the individual, what is causing the pain, the type of pain being experienced, and a full therapeutic program for treatment. If the source of the pain is acute, then hopefully the pain will be reduced once the problem causing it is healed. But, for chronic pain, treatment entails a more comprehensive, long-term management of it.

Pain is typically due to inflammation. Reducing inflammation is usually treated with NSAIDs, like you might associate with your own regiment for pain. Common NSAIDs we prescribe include carprofen, deracoxib, meloxicam, and firocoxib. After surgery, your pet may be prescribed tramadol or other low dose narcotics. 

But, medication isn’t the only solution. Various pain management treatments these days rely on alternative modalities. Some of these include:

  • Cold laser therapy
  • Nutritional therapy 
  • Supplements like Glucosamine and Omega 3 fish oils
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Low impact exercise like swimming
  • Physical therapy

There are numerous options for helping a pet experiencing pain, and we are seeing the development of new and exciting treatment options on the horizon. If your pet is experiencing pain or has a chronic condition that causes discomfort, please contact us to schedule an appointment.