There are many reasons for your pets at home to experience pain, including a broken bone, a muscle or ligament injury, a toothache, an underlying gastrointestinal issue or even cancer.
Since our furry companions cannot tell us exactly what is making them feel painful, we must use other clues to determine the origin of this pain and whether a veterinary visit is indicated.
Here are the most common signs of pain in dogs and cats:
If you observe your dog or cat suddenly limping this new ailment could be an indication of pain. A limp can be caused by a broken bone, a muscle strain, bony cancer, a ligament tear (the most common in dogs is the cranial cruciate ligament which is equivalent to the anterior cruciate ligament in humans), certain tickborne diseases or even a thorn in-between the toes.
If the limping persists over the course of 24 hours then a veterinary visit is recommended. A veterinarian can perform a physical examination to determine the source of the pain and may recommend x-rays to evaluate the bones and soft-tissue structures of your pet’s body.
A painful animal will often vocalize to indicate discomfort. This could be excessive barking, meowing, whimpering or groaning. Many animals in a great deal of pain will react and cry out in pain when a specific area of the body is manipulated. For example if your pet has experienced a muscle strain in their shoulder they will often cry out in pain when you touch or extend the front arm.
A stomach upset can also cause a great deal of pain and pet owners will find that when picking up their dog or cat the resulting reaction will be vocalization. Pay close attention to these verbal cues and if they persist or cause alarm consult with your veterinarian.
3. Decreased appetite
Many animals experiencing pain will lose interest in eating. If you are finding your pet is reluctant to come to the food bowl or is leaving behind a good portion of their normal breakfast or dinner this could indicate your pet is experiencing discomfort or has an underlying medical issue.
A tooth infection or severe dental disease can be extremely painful and result in a decline in appetite. It would be recommended you schedule a veterinary visit to further investigate changes in appetite.
In nature it is commonly theorized that injured animals will hide from predators to increase their chance of survival. These instincts can still be observed in some domesticated animals. Sick or painful pets might attempt to hide in order to avoid bringing attention to their illness.
Pet owners will often observe their dogs or cats tucked under a new piece of furniture they do not normally hide under, or wishing to spend more time outside. Keep a close eye on your pet for these specific behavior changes, as they may be the sign of an underlying condition.
A change in energy levels or a lack of interest in normal activities could be an indication of underlying pain. Lethargy can be indicated by more time spent sleeping or laying around, slower to rise, and disinterest in normal activities, such as playing with toys, going into the litter box or going on walks.
Pet owners are the best judges of their own pet’s normal energy level, so if you observe a change in behavior it is best to have a veterinarian perform an examination and consider running routine blood work to rule out an underlying medical issue.
Since our beloved pets cannot specifically tell us when they are in pain, we must use our investigative skills to better understand when they are not feeling well. We can use certain behavior cues to know when it is time to seek veterinary advice and evaluation. The earlier we recognize signs of pain or illness usually the better prognosis for treating our pets.
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