Those in the human medical field have long known the importance of treating pain. Our pets, on the other hand, have gone a long time without us properly recognizing or treating their pain. In recent years, veterinarians have made great strides in doing a better job in recognizing and treating pet pain. Unfortunately, their pain can be difficult to recognize, as animals are very good at disguising discomfort due to instinctive survival mechanisms.

What Causes Pain in Pets?

Pets can experience pain for many reasons. Pain can be due to an injury, a surgery, or a medical condition. It may be acute, or temporary, or chronic. Acute pain might occur immediately after an elective procedure or an accident. Chronic pain might be due to something like arthritis or cancer.

Despite the reason for pain, we recognize that it very much affects an individual pet’s quality of life. Untreated pain has also been shown to result in a lesser ability to heal. Both of these facts make it hugely important for pet owners and veterinarians alike to recognize pain and treat it aggressively.

How Do I Know if My Pet is In Pain

Pets are often not very obvious about their pain. Some animals may exhibit many signs, while others may be much more subtle. The amount and intensity of pain indicators does not necessarily indicate the level of pain however, and it important to treat any signs of pain. Some more common signs of pain in pets include:

  • Vocalization (whimpering, howling, groaning, etc.)

  • Changes in normal habits (hiding, less social)

  • Changes in eating habits

  • Change in activity level (restlessness, reluctance to move)

  • Change in demeanor (unusually aggressive, becoming withdrawn)

  • Change in posture (flattened ears, hunched stance)

  • Abnormal grooming  (lack of grooming, licking an area obsessively)

How Is Pet Pain Treated?

Pain in pets is often treated in several ways at once. By attacking the problem from multiple sides (utilizing “multimodal” pain management), pain can be more effectively managed. Some common components of a pain management protocol include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs): These drugs interfere with the production of factors within the body that cause pain and inflammation.

  • Opiods: Opiods are drugs that are related to morphine. These powerful medications can diminish the perception of pain.

  • Corticosteroids: In certain situations, these drugs can be used as anti-inflammatories.

  • Acupuncture: Based on Eastern medical theory, tiny needles are used to stimulate specific pressure points to achieve many goals, including pain relief.

  • Laser Therapy: using the energy of light, cells are stimulated to reduce inflammation and speed healing.

It is important to talk with your veterinarian if you feel that your pet is in pain. No symptoms of pain should go untreated. Because some pets are not very good at letting us know they are hurting, even subtle changes are important to bring up.

Never administer medications at home unless your vet has given you permission as many human medications can be harmful. Even previously prescribed medications may not be appropriate in a new situation.

Close observation and early action can help pet owners minimize any pain in their pets. With your veterinarian, you can help your pet be comfortable and happy, no matter what problems he or she may have.