September is Animal Pain Awareness Month, an event created by The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) to "educate and inform pet owners about their pet’s health and wellbeing when it comes to pain management."
Oftentimes, pet owners aren't aware that their pet is in pain and realize it only when the animal's illness has progressed. Recognizing what signs to look out for will enable you to be more responsive when your pet is in pain. In today's post, we'll show our support for Animal Pain Awareness Month by taking a look at a few of the most common warning signs of pain in pets.
1) Decreased Appetite
Most healthy pets can't wait for mealtimes and sudden refusal of food can be a sign that they're sick or in pain. It's unusual for a pet to refuse more than one or two meals, so it's important to take this warning sign seriously.
Injuries can cause loss of mobility and make it difficult for your pet to lower their body to eat. Other reasons for refusing food include stomach conditions or dental issues that make it difficult to eat.
Decreased appetite can also be a sign of more serious underlying health problems such as liver disease or kidney failure. For these reasons, it's important to consult with your veterinarian if you notice changes in your pet’s eating habits.
2) Heavy Panting
Dogs often pant, especially if they're hot or overstimulated. And cats may also pant when they're anxious or overheated. But if your pet starts to pant heavily for no apparent reason, it's a warning sign that they may be in pain.
Heavy panting is often linked to stress. And the underlying cause of stress can be pain. That's why it's a good idea to contact your veterinarian to book an appointment if your pet is panting heavily for prolonged periods of time.
3) Excessive Grooming
Excessive grooming can be a sign of pain, especially if the behavior starts suddenly or your pet focuses their attention on one area of their body. If you notice your pet grooming one area of their body continuously, examine them closely for signs of injury.
Don't assume everything is okay if there are no visible wounds. Cats and dogs will often lick where it hurts – even if the source of the pain is internal.
4) Behavioral Changes
Keep an eye out for sudden changes in your pet's behavior, as these can indicate underlying pain. Some pets will refuse to leave their beds, while others may show disinterest in playing or being around people.
Aggression can also be a sign of pain in cats and dogs, and normally placid animals may snap, bark, or hiss at family members as a warning to stay away. If your pet is showing signs of aggression, be especially careful when examining for injuries.
5) Mobility Issues
Difficulty moving around is one of the more obvious signs of pain in pets. Stiffness and limping are common signs of joint conditions such as arthritis, but they may also be caused by injuries or other health problems.
As well as general stiffness and limping, look out for signs of pain such as reluctance to climb stairs or jump up onto surfaces. Pets that are in pain may have trouble laying down and getting back up again. They may also move around slowly and appear to lack energy.
6) Changes in Posture
A sudden change in your pet's body posture can be a warning sign of pain. Some pets will keep their body very rigid and hunched. Others may hang their head, flatten their ears, or tuck their tail between their legs.
Paying attention to your pet's body language is an important part of knowing when they are in pain. If you notice any changes in posture it's a good idea to book an appointment with your veterinarian.
7) Altered Sleeping Patterns
Changes in regular sleeping patterns can indicate that your pet is in pain. Some cats and dogs may be restless and sleep far less than usual due to the intensity of the pain they are experiencing.
Sleeping more than usual is also a warning sign of pain, and some pets may have trouble getting out of bed. You may also notice that they sleep a lot more while their body attempts to heal.
8) Changes to the Eyes
Changes to your pet's eyes can indicate pain. Pets with eye pain will often squint or shut their eyes. In addition, you may notice that they have smaller (constricted) pupils.
Surprisingly, pain in other parts of the body can also cause changes in the eyes. You may notice larger (dilated) pupils as a result of pain elsewhere in the body.
Managing Pain in Pets
If you suspect that your pet is in pain, it's important to visit your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. While your pet is recovering at home, limit exercise and provide comfortable bedding and a quiet environment that's conducive to healing.
Your veterinarian may prescribe conventional pain medications such as analgesics (pain killers), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or opioids like morphine to manage your pet's pain. Although these can be highly effective, they may cause adverse side effects.
For this reason, we recommend speaking to a holistic veterinarian about treating your pet's pain naturally. Check out this article from Whole Dog Journal for more information about natural pain relievers, including homeopathy, herbal remedies, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
That's it for today's post. We hope you found it useful and informative. For more information about Animal Pain Awareness Month, head on over to IVAPM's website.