How do I know if my pet is in pain?
Updated: May 10, 2022
In the course of my work I often see animals for the first time towards the end of their life or, at the end of their life. Sometimes they can no longer stand unassisted. A lot of the time this is the reason an owner will call me to humanely and peacefully euthanise their dog.
The reason for this blog is to hopefully guide owners to know the early signs of pain in your pet so that you can have longer with them and they can have a better quality of life, especially heading into their golden years.
Not all pets will cry in pain!
In fact, crying or whimpering is very rare. Most dogs and almost all cats are very adept at hiding their pain. Dogs will continue to wag their tail and eat. Cats will stoically carry on doing what they normally do.
Signs of pain in pets.
Some signs to look our for would be that your dog or cat can't or won't jump up onto the things that they usually would have. E.g. you've noticed your dog or cat doesn't want to sleep on the sofa anymore, but will choose a bed on the floor. Or you may notice that your cat doesn't jump up (onto the kitchen bench!) in one fluid movement any more but rather has to scramble up at the top.
Sometimes your dog will take longer to get out of bed in the morning. You may notice that they don't run to the door as readily when the doorbell rings. Maybe they run to fetch the ball 4 times now instead of the countless times that they used to.
Maybe you notice that they don't sleep in the same position as they used to. This is a very frequent sign of osteoarthritis. Sometimes this can also be a sign that their heart might be in trouble as the fluid builds up in their lungs if they lie on their side so they lie on their chest with their paws out in front of them instead.
Maybe they don't want to jump into the car anymore.
Maybe you notice that they are starting to get irritable with other pets or people in the household.
Maybe they limp.
Maybe they hide - especially cats.
What can be done?
Give us a call for a full check-over of your pet. As a home vet I really have an advantage here as I get to see your pet when they are not in flight/fight mode as is often the case at a clinic. When I worked at a clinic I used to see patients trot through the doors every day as if they didn't have any pain. The owners would always say "He's made a liar out of me now!, He was really sore at home"! You're not imagining it! This is adrenaline, a very potent pain reliever! It doesn't mean your pet's pain is not there. Just the anxiety of being in a clinic environment is covering it up.
Depending on the issue, I may suggest a blood test, sometimes I may just start the pet on a trial of anti-inflammatory drugs. Sometimes drugs are not warranted and maybe some environment modification is all that is needed. Sometimes you may want to try your pet on CBD oil or other things. All can be discussed. Just don't leave it until your pet starts to whimper or can't get up!