Cats and dogs in pain – Pets in pain – Pet tip 125
Pain is an unpleasant experience that humans and animals alike will avoid if at all possible. When an animal’s pain is very great they will exhibit noticeable signs. The problem is that there is often a gap in communication between pets and their humans since they can’t easily communicate with each other through spoken language. Pets therefore ‘tell’ us when they are in pain through body language and behaviour. However this is often communicated so subtly, that a pet owner who is not finely attuned to small changes in the actions of their pet may easily overlook their pet’s plea for help.
The first step in bridging this gap of communication between you and your pet, involves becoming aware of the behaviour to look for that an animal will elicit when they are suffering. This is not as easy as it sounds. Unfortunately, the criteria of the behaviour to look for is anything that is not normal. There are a wide variety of behaviours a suffering animal can exhibit that are different from their normal behaviour, such as vocalization, aggression, hiding, restlessness, elimination in the house, and an unusual posture. They may also appear to lose select normal behaviour, such as showing a decrease in appetite, decreased activity, decreased grooming (for cats), and a lethargic attitude. This loss of normal behaviour is particularly important for the owner to pick up on. Why? When an animal is brought into a vet clinic, it will often mask these signs out of fear and anxiety. No-body knows your pet better than you, so keep a close watch and if you suspect any pain, or you are not sure if your pet is in pain but it is acting unusually, inform your veterinarian. Animals are very good at hiding signs of pain (this allowed them to survive in the wild), so by the time they show you these signs, obvious or not, they are probably feeling a great deal of pain. There are many medications a veterinarian can give your pet depending on the cause and signs of its pain that will alleviate your pet’s suffering.
A little pain makes you stronger. Ever heard this statement? There is no reason that an animal should be in pain. It has been proven again and again that pain is not beneficial to an animal, either after treatment or during surgery. Actually, the opposite is true. Animals that receive treatment for their pain are more comfortable and tend to recover faster from surgery. If your pet is in pain, or is on pain meds and you are now trying to prevent it from feeling uncomfortable again, there are a couple easy things you can do that may help. Stress and pain have been shown to be related. If an animal is in pain, stress will increase the amount of pain that they are feeling. Minimizing the stress your animal feels will also minimize their pain. Ways to reduce their stress include keeping them in a calm and comfortable environment. Also, if your veterinarian has prescribed pain medications, continue them for the prescribed amount of time even if your pet looks to be feeling better, and contact your vet with any concerns.
Yet another false myth regarding animals and pain is that they cannot feel pain, or at least feel it in a different way then humans. Animals like dogs and cats actually have very similar, if not identical, pathways in their bodies through which the pain sensation travels to the brain. This is most likely why the common consensus is that animals and humans experience painful events in a similar manner. Understandably, the same procedures that your doctor performs on you that you find uncomfortable, apply equally to your pet. Since individual animals have different pain thresholds, you should watch during your veterinarian’s physical examination of your pet to see if any of the more invasive procedures appear to be making your pet overly uncomfortable. If so, it would be wise to inform your vet of this, as they too can often overlook signs of pain. Ensuring that your pet is at ease as much as possible and not feeling any pain is really a team effort and your pet reaps the benefits.
To recap, if your pet has been victim to an injury which looks like it would cause you pain, your pet will probably share this feeling. The main goal of managing your pet’s pain can only be achieved once you are able to successfully cross the communication gap and interpret your pet’s abnormal behaviour. By determining that your pet is in pain through these subtle behaviours you deserve all the praise in the world, as treatment will immensely increase your pet’s quality of life. Remember, if pain was pleasurable it would be called pleasure.
By Laura Platt – Pets.ca writer