When humans suffer from pain, we express it in many different ways. Animals can also display that they are in pain, but their methods may be a bit different.
Because animal pain is not always so recognizable to the average owner, the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) established September as Animal Pain Awareness Month to raise awareness and increase education.
It’s a particularly important month to discuss because pain can severely affect the pets we love so much.
Signs of pain.
Animal pain awareness begins with understanding that not all pain is palpable. Our pets can’t describe what and how much something hurts, so we need to know how to observe signs of discomfort.
We also need to consider symptoms over time. It’s easy for their pain to go unnoticed by us for a while because animals are much better at pushing through when something hurts. Unfortunately, this isn’t a good thing, considering it can mask a condition.
If a pet shows obvious pain, particularly something chronic or slow to develop, they probably have been hurting for quite a while before showing signs. It’s up to us, their caregivers, to watch for possible problems so we can seek early intervention.
Here are some common symptoms to look for:
- Changes in posture
- Reduced activity
- Dental issues
- Quiet or loss of curiosity
- Changes in bathroom habits
- Hissing or spitting in cats
- Lack of agility
- Excessive licking/grooming/chewing
- Decreased social interaction
- Anxious expression
- Submissive behavior
- Howling or growling in dogs
- Guarding behavior
- Decreased appetite
If your pet is experiencing any of these signs of pain, it’s crucial to get the cause diagnosed quickly.
Pain management tips.
The best part about diagnosing the cause of pain is that your vet can then determine the best course of action to manage it safely and effectively. Several options range from prescription pain relievers to supplements, or even physical therapy.
Do not give your pet over the counter NSAIDs or other pain relievers without consulting your veterinarian first. Some have a very narrow margin of safety or are not safe to give at all.
Keep up with wellness exams.
Be sure to keep up with your pets’ annual check-ups. Chronic medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, hormonal health, and kidney issues can be something that the average pet owner will not catch, but an experienced vet will.
A thorough vet examination also helps identify underlying health conditions that will worsen over time. If your pet needs a check-up, learn more about our wellness exams.
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