Animal Pain Awareness Month


September is Animal Pain Awareness Month: Is Your Pet In Pain?

If you think you’d know if your pet was in pain, you might want to think again. While acute pain often manifests itself with obvious signals like whimpering, yelping, or lameness, signs of chronic pain can be much more subtle and difficult to read. Animals are pretty good at hiding pain (after all, who wants to announce to a passing predator that they’re easy prey?) but there are some reliable indicators that you can pay attention to when gathering clues about whether your pet is suffering.


Pets in pain often don’t move as freely as usual. They may be unable or unwilling to jump up onto previously favorite spots, such as a bed, couch, or windowsill. Stairs can become a challenge, as can running or playing. Pain can also often cause differences in posture, such as hunching or rigidity.


Depression and lethargy are often indicators of pain, as are agitation, restlessness, and an inability to get comfortable. Pay particular attention to changes in demeanor and personality, i.e., a friendly dog becoming grumpy, a lap cat becoming antisocial, or sudden defensiveness toward people or other pets. These can be strong clues that your pet is in pain.

Appetite and Weight

Weight loss and loss of appetite are common manifestations of pain. If your pet is losing weight and it is not due to diet or an increased exercise regimen, or if previously coveted treats are not tempting them, your pet could be experiencing pain. Mouth pain from dental issues such loose teeth, growths, deformities and even pathologic jaw fractures due to chronic disease often cause decreased appetite and weight loss.

Dogs vs. Cats

In addition to the signs mentioned above, there are some particular differences in behavior between dogs and cats when in pain. Cats tend to become very selective with their food or stop eating altogether. They can tend to get aggressive or hide altogether. Another telltale sign is crouching in a hunched position, eyes closed, legs tucked, and head bowed. A cat may also purr while in pain to self-medicate, which can often make it harder to diagnose pain. Dogs may seem lethargic and sleepy, depressed, and finicky with their food choices. They often vocalize or moan, squint their eyes, become guarded when approached, and can become aggressive. Increased respiration is also indicative of pain.

Don’t be afraid to seek treatment quickly if you notice even subtle changes in your pet. You know them best and you know when they aren’t themselves. The earlier an issue is diagnosed, the better the chance it can be successfully treated, and the quicker your pet can gain relief.

There is hope!

Modern veterinary medicine offers a wide variety of options for treating pain in animals. Many of today’s pain medications have little to no side effects and new generation drugs are much safer for long-term use. Rehabilitation and physical therapy can truly work wonders in relieving pain in pets and there are many other therapies that can be very helpful, from laser treatment to massage therapy and acupuncture.

Many of the doctors and technicians here at ASCS are members of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management and have extensive and comprehensive experience in managing pain in pets. Our approach to pain management is to use a variety of multimodal medications in conjunction with rehabilitation. Surgical intervention can help relieve some painful issues, such as mass excisions, hip replacements and the reparation of torn ligaments. Home use medications can alleviate pain. Other rehabilitation modalities such as massage, underwater treadmill, laser, icing, heat, tens unit stimulation, and shock wave therapy are very powerful tools in relieving pain in your pets, putting them on the road to feeling better and restoring their quality of life.

We encourage you to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if you recognize any of these indicators of pain in your pet. If your primary care veterinarian refers you to a certified rehabilitation specialist, the team at ASCS is always happy to evaluate your pet and discuss options with you. Give us a call at (206) 545-4322.

Posted September 18, 2017 by Animal Surgical in Noteworthy with No Comments

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