Our pets mean the world to us, and we do everything we can to keep them from experiencing pain. But it’s not always easy to know if our pet is in pain due to an age old survival instinct, not to mention the fact that they can’t tell us how they feel.

But with careful observation, a little practice, and our guidance, you can learn to notice signs that your pet is in pain. Together, we can work to not only identify signs of pain, but to prevent and treat conditions that cause it as well.

Recognizing Pain in Animals

As we mentioned above, pets are masters at hiding signs of pain and discomfort – even from their closest people. In the wild, animals who show pain and vulnerability are targets for predators. Our pets still have this basic instinct to protect themselves by masking signs of pain.

Studies show that pet owners are actually not that good at recognizing signs that their pet is in pain. This is one reason why it’s important to keep up regularly scheduled preventive care exams with your pet’s veterinarian. When we can catch early signs of disease, we can treat small problems before they become advanced  – and sometimes painful – disease.

All that said, with judicious observation skills, you can learn to recognize signs that your pet is in pain. Careful observation of behavior changes has been shown to be the best way to catch problems that cause pain early.

Look for the following subtle changes in behavior to clue you in that your pet is in pain:

  • A change in friendliness (less to more, or more to less)
  • Hiding more frequently
  • Grooming excessively, or grooming less often
  • Snapping or growling when touched
  • Shaking/trembling
  • Irritability
  • Inability to get comfortable; pacing, lying down and getting up
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of interest in favorite toys, food, or outings
  • Reluctance to jump into the car
  • Increased vocalizing
  • Inappropriate urination (outside the litter box; urinating in the house)

Sometimes signs of pain are for obvious reasons. But when it’s not clear, trust your observations. Your careful attention to their daily behavior, routine changes, and personality can clue you in to their discomfort.

Pain Management and Prevention

In the past two decades, veterinary medicine has made enormous strides in pet pain assessment and management. That’s why it’s important that you call us as soon as you recognize any signs that your pet is in pain. The sooner we can diagnose a problem, the sooner your pet will receive the treatment and relief from pain that they deserve, and the more quickly they can heal.

Pain management is vital to your pet’s recovery from illness or injury as well. We use an industry recognized pain scale that objectively measures signs of pain in pets. Once your pet’s pain is evaluated, we’ll talk to you about any number of modalities we can use to manage and prevent pain in your pet. We can help with an individual plan that might include acupuncture and physical therapy as well as traditional medications.  

What You Can Do If Your Pet Is In Pain

If you feel your pet is in pain, your first step is to call your veterinarian. In addition, you can provide some creature comforts at home while they are under our care.

Make sure your pet has the following:

  • A warm, soft bed in a quiet spot
  • Easy access to essentials (food, water, litter box)
  • Position your pet so they don’t have to navigate stairs or slippery surfaces to go out to the bathroom
  • Opportunities for rest
  • Provide the highest quality diet you can
  • Follow your veterinarian’s directions for pain management, medications, and pain relief
  • Call us right away if something is not working

At Arlington Animal Hospital, your pet’s health and comfort is our top priority. Please contact us if you feel your pet is in pain so that we can work together to provide relief and better health.