Recognizing and Treating Pain in Our Pets

Recognizing and Treating Pain in Our Pets

Photo Credit: Trishy Wishy (CC)
Photo Credit: Trishy Wishy (CC)

By Dr. Angela Gaeto, DVM, of the Helen Woodward Animal Center community in San Diego County.

Recognizing pain

Pain can be a difficult thing to recognize in our pets. Most owners will notice a limp, scratch, or yelp from their pet but slow onset and chronic pain can be difficult to determine in pets of any age. Dogs try and hide their pain instinctually. Since animals can’t talk we have to use their subtle body language to hear their concerns. When dogs are uncomfortable they tend to show a change in behavior or temperament. Happy and affectionate pets may become more distant and be reluctant to be held or petted, especially in areas of the body that are more painful. Active dogs may become quieter and prefer to lie around instead of playing. Another behavioral clue from a painful pet is licking and chewing. If a pet can reach the area that bothers them they may lick or chew at it, potentially even causing self-harm in their attempt to make it feel better.

Diagnosing and treating pain

There are many ways to diagnose and treat pain based on symptoms that owners see. The less specific the symptoms are typically the more diagnostic testing is needed. However, often times a thorough physical exam can determine painful areas. Once a painful area or condition has been identified there are numerous ways to go about treatment. Medication options include steroids, supplements, and anti-inflammatory drugs. Each drug works to target different types of pain such as bone or joint pain, muscular pain, neurologic based pain, or abdominal pain. Different drugs and drug combinations are often used to combat pain. Acupuncture can also be used to treat chronic pain and a specific acupuncture treatment plan is determined based on the problem. Do NOT give your pet human pain medication.

Following up

Since one of the best ways to determine that your pet is in pain is to watch for behavior changes, the best way to determine if your pet is feeling better is to watch for return of active and happy behaviors. Take note of changes in your pet's behavior for the better and this will help determine which medications are helping and what dosages are appropriate for your pet.

Photo Credit: Trishy Wishy (CC)

Posted on: April 22, 2016

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