Pain Awareness

According to the Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital at the University of Wisconsin, pain is defined as an “unpleasant sensory and emotional experience with actual or potential tissue damage.” As humans, this is easy to recognize in ourselves, but can be difficult to recognize in our furry family members.  Pain tends to be personal, subjective and difficult to measure due to the fact that pets are predisposed to hide any illnesses and/or pain. Most pets tend to suffer in silence and stoically. Pain assessment over the past few years has become a topic of top priority in veterinarian medicine, especially when it to comes to increasing the quality of life for our pets.

Pain for our pets can come in many different forms: infections, inflammation, dental disease, arthritis, trauma, surgical procedures and cancer.

Infections:  Infections are a common source of pain in pets. Most of the time the pain associated with infection will go away once the infection is cleared. (Ex: Urinary Tract Infection)

Inflammation:  Inflammation tends to be the root of many infections and diseases. When inflammation is initiated the body releases chemicals that allow the nervous system to prime for pain sensing. Pain associated with inflammation does not occur spontaneously, but must first be triggered. Therefore when treating, the key is to reduce the inflammation and the pain should reduce as well. (Ex: Pancreatitis, Cystitis)

Dental Disease: This is one of the more common sources of pain seen in pets, even at the age of 2. Dental disease can cause a great amount of oral discomfort resulting in pets dropping food, not being able to chew, not eating, and even weight loss. Much like infections, once the teeth issue is addressed the pain will subside.

Arthritis: Most pets exhibit some form of arthritis as they enter into their senior years but pets that have experienced previous injuries can develop arthritis at an earlier age. Arthritis can affect any joint within the body. Although there is no cure for arthritis there are many ways to help alleviate the associated pain.

Trauma: From mild pain from a broken toe nail to severe pain from a broken bone. With certain trauma it is key to treat the pain as soon as possible to help reduce stress and increase healing. Pain from traumas often includes not only physical pain but emotional pain as well. Sometimes in addition to treating the pain, owners find themselves having to treat the fear, stress and anxiety that can manifest after traumas.

Surgical Procedures: Treating pain that is a result of a surgical procedure is crucial for a smoother and faster recovery. Pets that receive proper pain management before, during and following a surgical procedure tend to start eating faster, return to normal activity faster and have a decrease in surgical complications.

Cancer: Unfortunately, pets can be at risk of developing many different types of cancer, even at younger ages. Secondary inflammation and/or infections as well as some treatments can cause pain to pets. Proper care of their pain aids greatly in the quality of their lives.

Some signs to watch for when you suspect pain in your pet:

  • Vocalizing:

-Whining         -Hissing           -Growling        -Yelping          -Whimpering   -Groaning        -Grunting            -Meowing        -Purring

  • Posture:

-Hunched        -Lying on their side    -Tucks feet underneath them  -Arches back   -Tucks in tummy

  • Facial Expressions:

-Vacant stare   -Grimaces        -Flattened ears             -Enlarged pupils          -Panting           -Wide-eye            -Sleepy looking           -Furrowed brow

  • Grooming:

-Coat lacks shine         -Hair stands up in odd places              -Licking           -Biting        -Scratching at a particular area -Stops grooming

  • Behavioral Changes:

-Hides             -May become aggressive towards family       -Avoids petting         -Protects a body part      -Doesn’t want to be held         -Becomes quite, docile

  • Daily Activity Habit:

-Restless          -Reluctant to move      -Decrease energy level            -“Gives up” during play time  -Trembling        -Circling          -Laying still     -Sleep more     -Decrease in appetite  -Changes in drinking  -Stops using litter box              -Accidents inside        -Withdrawals

-Shaking          -Hard time getting up from laying down       -Not jumping       -Slower in movement


If you see any one or multiple of the above signs mentioned please contact your veterinary immediately.

The best way to identify and treat pain is to have a veterinarian perform a routine exam on your pet. There are many different treatments that can be offered or recommended to help prevent and treat pain. These range from oral and/or injectable medications, pet safe anti-inflammatories, K-Laser therapy, hydrotherapy, and acupuncture. There are also several supplements available such as fish oil, which is a natural anti-inflammatory, and glucosamine chondroitin sulfate, a joint protectant, that are recommended often to aid in management of pain.

Although pain is a personal experience, it does not mean that you are alone in the fight to help your pet. We are committed in helping you and your pets live a long healthy life together. Please schedule an appointment with us today for the best protocol for pain management for your pet.