Identifying the Subtle Signs of Pain in Pets

Identifying the Subtle Signs of Pain in Pets

While for us humans, headaches and muscle soreness often take care of themselves, long-term chronic pain can take a toll on our pets’ dispositions. Minor pain can be a symptom of a deeper, more serious health issue. We’d like to share some insight into subtle signs and symptoms of pain.

How Can You Tell if Your Pet is in Pain?

Most pet parents recognize the obvious signs of pain: crying, limping, or not putting weight on a paw, but more subtle signs can be harder to spot. These symptoms can tell you that your pet could use a check-up, or even a pain management plan. 

How well can you spot your pet’s pain? Did you know that excessive purring can be a sign that your cat is in pain? How about the fact that dilated or constricted pupils can be a side effect of pet pain?

Signs of Pet Pain

1. Adverse Reaction to Getting Stroked

Your pet may seem to cringe or move away when you pet them. If so, this could be a sign of pain or skin irritation. Cats may also lash out and scratch or bite from time to time if you stroke over a sore area. If you notice your pet seems sensitive to touch, you should bring them by for a visit with us.

2. Defensiveness and Short Patience

When pets are in pain they often feel more defensive. They can even act aggressively if they feel cornered or surprised. This is a survival mechanism that would have been useful for protection in the wild.

3. Sudden or Gradual Change in Personality

When humans don’t feel well, we tend to be short with others. We even get grumpy and irritated more easily. The same is true for our pets. If your once outgoing, sweet dog seems “snippy”, agitated, or withdrawn, they may be in pain.

4. Lack of Appetite

Pain can be tiring and create a major change in appetite. Pets tend to not eat quite as much if they’re hurting. Lack of appetite can be a sign of both dental pain and internal pain.

5. Targeted Grooming

Do you know how four-year-olds tend to nurse a scrape and can’t keep their eyes off it? Dogs, cats, and other pets do this as well. Pets will groom and lick areas that are causing discomfort. This can be from a bug bite, a thorn, arthritis, rash, or even anxiety.

6. Hesitation Before Movement or on Walks

If your dog or cat seems reluctant to jump on or off the bed, or move up and down stairs, they could have sore joints. We frequently see dogs that don’t keep up on walks like they used to or lose steam after short stints of play. This can indicate that there is pain involved, and not just fatigue.

7. Increased Heart Rate and Rapid Breathing

When a dog or cat is in pain, they naturally breathe quicker and their hearts race. This pumps oxygen throughout the body and to the brain. This can increase awareness and endorphins to help your pet cope. If you notice your pet is panting (and not just in situations of higher temperatures), this may be a sign that they are feeling discomfort somewhere in their bodies.

Don’t Let Pain Keep Your Pet from Feeling Their Best

At Sullivan Family Pet Hospital, we have many options for pain management – from nutritional supplements, to medications (many of which can be found in our online store), and even  laser therapy. By noticing the symptoms of pain when they first occur, you’re on the way to helping your pet achieve comfort, better range of motion and increased mobility to do more of the activities they previously loved doing. Once we are able to get to the cause of the pain, we will come up with a treatment plan to help your pet feel their best.

Image credit: Luckeyman | iStock | Getty Images Plus

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