Believe it or not, up until a number of years ago, the belief was that pets don’t feel pain. Since pets don’t speak humans’ language and body language was not observed, the belief persisted. Animals tend to try to mask their pain, a holdover from living in the wild when any indication of weakness meant vulnerability. Signs of pain in pets, especially cats, can be subtle, but they are there – we just have to learn what to look for.
Some signs to be aware of that indicate pain are panting, vocalization, difficulty getting up and down, not eating or eating less, tail carried low or between legs, negative response to being touched anywhere on the body, aggression, any behavioral changes. Your pet may be reluctant to climb stairs, have difficulty jumping (on bed), tire after a short walk, struggle to rise after lying down, may eat less. Cats may urinate outside the litter box because edges are too high to climb over.
Pain can result from accidents, injuries, surgery, illness, chronic conditions. It can also change blood test results indicated by higher blood sugar and white cell levels.
Pain is a sign of an underlying problem. Contact your veterinarian with all the information you can gather concerning your pet as well as any questions you may have. Fortunately today there are a number of medications that can treat pain, but ask your vet about side effects, particularly with cats as their medication tolerance level is lower than dogs.
Acupuncture and massage have been used successfully to relieve chronic pain and make your pet more comfortable. Always consult with your vet when trying any new treatment.
When your pet is experiencing pain, s/he needs your tender loving care. Our pets look to us to help them in times of need. And while we may not be able to completely remove the pain, our calm demeanor and soothing words and strokes go a long way to ease their fear. One note of caution: an injured pet or one in severe pain may strike out, although not meaning to hurt the hand that’s trying to help. Please use caution under these circumstances.