Thursday, July 11, 2013

How do I know if my pet is in pain?

Pain in Animals.....excerpts from "Managing Canine Pain"

For the purposes of this article pain can be divided into 2 types:
Acute vs. Chronic.
This is an example of a cat in acute pain resulting from a declaw
  • Acute pain can be described as incapacitating, moderate to severe. In general, acute pain resolves when the underlying cause or injury resolves. Many animals experience acute pain after surgery, or as a result of sudden injury or illness.

  • Chronic pain can be described as prolonged, continuous, or intermittent. Chronic pain occurs for 3 to 6 months, but can last for years. This type of pain serves no useful purpose and is associated with disturbances of physiology, potential increase of other diseases such as cancer,
    A limping dog could be an example of chronic pain
    worsening of osteoarthritis, decreased activity, changes in behavior such as aggression, depression or anxiety. When chronic pain builds slowly the animal may learn to tolerate and live with it. In these instances, the goal is to treat he cause whenever possible, as well as relieving the pain.

It is important to recognize that chronic pain in animals may be a result of underlying medical conditions such as osteoarthritis, inflammatory disorders such as ear infections, orthopedic  problems such as disc disease, soft tissue injury such as phantom limb pain, dental disease and tumors which are themselves chronic.

Domesticated dogs and cats are genetically programmed not to show pain....a characteristic exhibited in the wild to protect animals from predators. The way individual animals respond to pain can vary depending on age, health status, species and age.
Note: It is important to recognize departures from the animals normal behavior and appearance.
  • Changes in attitude or personality
  • Abnormal Vocalization
  • Licking, biting, scratching or shaking of a painful area.  
  • Limping
  • Changes in hair coat.
  • Changes in posture or ambulation
  • Changes in activity level
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in facial expression
  • Changes in elimination habits
  • Other signs can include: Hiding, seeking more affection, protecting the injured area, and aggressive or defensive reactions to touch.
It is important to mention that the above noted symptoms point to different causes, and the animal will not exhibit all of these symptoms. This is just a guideline to assist you in understanding how your pet may exhibit pain. In the next article, we will address pain diagnosis and treatment.

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