Managing Pain in Pets
January 19, 2012
Imagine feeling ill and not being able to properly express it.
The language barrier causes many pets to feel this way toward their
owners. It is important to know the signs indicative of pain in
your pet so that you can help them with their treatment, even if
they can't help identify their pain.
According to Dr. Mark Stickney, clinical associate professor at
the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical
Sciences, knowing if pets are in pain can be tricky.
"All pets show pain differently," says Stickney. "Cats are prone
to hide when they are uncomfortable while dogs tend to show pain
more outwardly than their feline friends."
There is a lot of variation when it comes to pets and showing
pain, and the signs of pain are not always obvious.
"Some common signs of pain are less energetic greetings and
refusing to eat or drink," Stickney says. "Some animals may pace or
pant if they are in pain or they may growl or snap if the sore spot
Your pets may show you all of these signs while some may show
you almost none, Stickney adds. "Cats are the classic example. They
can be in large amounts of discomfort and still hide their
"What it boils down to is owners know their pets best," Stickney
says. "If you think your animal is uncomfortable and not
behaving normally, you should call your veterinarian for an
Stickney notes that the causes of pain can come from various
"We see several types of injuries like those caused by cars or
other animals," says Stickney. "Pain can also occur as pets
get older from diseases such as arthritis."
The most common treatment for pain in dogs is non-steroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs, says Stickney. "These products will
reduce inflammation and make the animals feel better. They
usually come in flavored preparations disguised as treats."
If you suspect your pet is in pain and a veterinarian cannot be
reached, human pain medication should never be an option.
"Animals metabolize drugs differently than we do," Stickney
says. "Human medication will usually cause more harm than good and
could damage organs like the kidneys or liver."
But there are things you can do at home to make your pet feel
"Try to make arrangements so your pet does not have to move as
much," says Stickney. "Keep him or her confined in a small
room or crate."
Stickney also suggests moving food and water bowls closer to the
It is up to you, as the owner, to recognize behavioral changes
that might indicate pain.
"The veterinary profession has come a long way in recognizing
pain in animals," says Stickney. "If you think your pet is in
pain, contact your veterinarian because there are numerous options
to make your pet feel more comfortable."
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