Animals feel pain just like we do. But they can’t tell us about their pain. That’s why animal pain awareness is so important. Every pet parent should know how to recognize the signs of pain in their pet and know how they can manage their pet’s pain.
Recognizing When Your Pet is in Pain
Even though our pets cannot tell us when they are in pain, there are signs you can look for that indicate your pet is experiencing some distress. There are signs common with most pets, such as:
- Decrease or loss of appetite
- Being off by themselves — not joining the family
- Lameness (limping)
- Crying or whining
- Excessive licking or scratching
Then there are more specific signs of pain depending on the type of animal. For example,
- Tight or twitching muscles
- Shaking or trembling
- Arched back
- Holding their head below their shoulders
- Hiding away
- Vocalization e.g. frequent unpleasant or urgent sounding meowing, groaning, hissing, growling.
- Decreased grooming in general or increased grooming but to a particular area (potentially leading to bald patches and/or sore skin).
- Panting is not usual for a cat. If your cat is panting, it can indicate extreme fear, pain, or difficulty breathing.
- Lameness or abnormal gait.
- Unusual posture.
- Shifting weight from one leg to another.
- Muscle tremors.
- Abnormal sweating.
- Lying down more than usual.
- Mood or temperament changes.
- Decreased appetite.
We will not try to cover all animals here, but the above gives you an idea of indications of pet pain. What is essential is to look for any pattern to changes in your pet’s behavior. Does the behavior come after exercise? Do you notice it more in the morning or evening? Any data you can note will help us understand what is causing your pet pain.
Pain Management for Pet Pain
Your pet can suffer from short-term pain or chronic pain. The pain could stem from a disease, an injury, be age-related such as arthritis, or recent surgery. In either case, it is essential to understand why pain management is vital. Of course, our pets are part of the family, so we do not want to see them suffer. But there are also physiological benefits to treating and managing pain in pets. When we do not control their pain, they can experience an increase in the production of stress hormones, such as cortisol. This increase in hormones can cause:
- Increased blood pressure
- Slower wound healing
- Increased length of hospital stay (after surgery)
- A decrease in gastrointestinal motility
Cold Laser Therapy
Cold Laser Therapy is a drug-free, surgery-free solution. At Nokomis Veterinary Services we offer Class IV Laser therapy that delivers specific red and near-infrared wavelengths of laser light to induce a therapeutic effect within the body. These include increased circulation, decreased swelling, reduction of pain, and enhanced tissue repair.
We do not need to sedate or restrain your pet for laser therapy, and the experience is usually pleasant and comforting to pets. Each treatment lasts around 1-4 minutes, but the length and frequency of treatments vary with your pet’s condition. Even though you may see after the first visit, most patients require several treatments for the most significant benefit, and we recommend a multi-visit treatment plan. Your veterinarian will recommend a treatment plan specific to your pet’s condition.
When possible, we try to manage a pet’s pain without drugs. However, there are instances we need to administer pain medication for the pet to heal from whatever it is experiencing. For example, a pet needs to be kept calm and comfortable after an injury or surgery so its body can heal quickly.
Animals are sensitive creatures and feel pain even when they do not show it. The more observant you are, the better your chance of catching some change in your pet which could indicate it is experiencing pain. If you have any concerns about your pet being in pain, please contact us so we can set up an appointment and get them assessed by one of our vets as soon as possible.
Dr. Stacey Funderburk