Animals have evolved to mask signs of pain as a way to survive. In the wild, an injured or ill animal would become vulnerable to predators or a target in their social group, so appearing healthy and robust is a critical instinct. This is one reason that pet owners can have difficulty discerning if their pet is in trouble.
As loving pet owners, we’d like to think we can tell if our beloved pet is in pain. But studies show, in fact, that pet owners are not very good at recognizing pain in their pets. Careful observation of behavior changes is the most effective way to catch pain problems early; thus, learning to identify these behavior changes becomes essential. In honor of September being Animal Pain Awareness Month, let’s explore ways to spot and help pets handle pain.
What Causes Pain in Dogs and Cats?
Acute pain, generally caused by an injury, wound, or illness will generally be handled by your veterinarian as part of treatment for the underlying condition. But chronic pain can come on slowly or build over time and can be harder to spot.
Some causes of chronic pain include:
- Arthritis and joint disease
- Intervertebral disc disease
- Back or joint pain
- Muscle injuries
- Gastrointestinal conditions
Signs of Pain
You know your pet the best, and with close observation, you can detect subtle changes in their behavior. In addition, your daily attention to their eating, sleeping, playing, and resting routine may clue you in quickly to their discomfort.
Some indicators your pet may be in pain include:
- Hiding more than normal
- Panting while at rest
- A change in friendliness (less to more, and more to less)
- Inability to get comfortable/rest
- Excessive licking or grooming of a specific area
- Snapping or growling when touched
- Increased vocalizing
- Changes in litter box use (some painful cats can no longer get to or into the litter box)
Advancements in Treating Pet Pain
In the past two decades, veterinary medicine has made giant strides in recognizing pain in pets and developing pain management techniques. Pain assessment was not commonly practiced in veterinary clinics years ago. However, we now have an industry-recognized pain scale, which allows veterinarians and veterinary teams to identify and objectively measure pain in pets to manage their pain more strategically. As a result, any time we see your pet, we will not only look for signs of pain but also help alleviate it.
At BEVS, we offer comprehensive physical rehabilitation services designed to reduce pain in your pet. Our credentialed veterinary professionals will talk with you and your family veterinarian, examine your pet, and develop a complete individual rehabilitation and pain management plan for your pet.
Some of these pain-relieving modalities include:
- Cold laser therapy
- Massage/ manual therapy
- Underwater treadmill
- Therapeutic exercise programs
- Assistive device fittings and adjustments
In addition to our rehabilitation services, we are pleased to provide veterinary acupuncture with Pamela Brown, DVM, CVA, CCRT, CCPP. Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to correct energy imbalances in the body. It uses tiny, thin needles inserted at specific points to release endorphins and pain-relieving hormones. Dr. Brown uses acupuncture as a proven method to control pain and improve the overall general well-being of pets. She is certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society in acupuncture and, in addition, is the only veterinarian in all of Vermont who has earned the distinction of a Certified Veterinary Pain Practitioner (CVPP).