Companion animal pain is a major medical problem that is often not recognized, and unfortunately, is often undermanaged as well. Pain management is now considered so important in the human medical profession that pain evaluation is considered a “vital sign” as important as pulse or temperature! However, since our pets are non-verbal, they are unable to tell us when or where they hurt. And even with the best of intentions, we may miss the subtle signs that tell us that an animal is in pain.
What are some signs that my pet may be in pain?
- Difficulty in rising
- Changes in behavior
- Hiding or withdrawing
- Changes in posture (arched head, neck or back)
- Sitting or lying in an unusual position
- Moving less or more slowly
- Less tolerance for exercise
- Sleeping more
- General lack of energy
- Grooming less
- Eating less
- Difficulty or changes in urinating or defecating, including accidents
- Muscle tremors or shaking
- Lameness or changes in gait
- Licking or chewing at a painful area
- Crying or vocalizing **This is NOT the most common sign of pain in animals!**
Besides my pet's comfort, why is pain management important?
Research shows us that pain definitely can cause actual physical problems:
- A painful incident early in life can lead to an increased sensitivity to pain even years later.
- Pain causes a stress response in the body that leads to a worsening or lengthening of an illness.
- Chronic pain can be associated with decreased memory and mental focus.
- A recent study has shown that control of chronic pain resulted in increased longevity for patients with both cancer, and arthritis.
- And finally, it can be a major criterion for electing euthanasia for pets
What can we do to help my pet's pain?
We have many tools available to our patients — if there is any evidence that your friend has any level of pain, we should have a detailed conversation about the options that will work best, tailored to your pet’s individual situation.
- Modalities may include:
- Nutritional Supplements
- Weight Management
- Therapeutic exercise (physical rehabilitation)
- Massage Therapy