Identifying Pain in Dogs and Cats
Pain levels in pets are one of the most difficult things for pet parents and veterinarians to diagnose. Animals are uniquely equipped to hide any pain they may be experiencing – a skill that has been fine-tuned through the centuries as predator and prey have evolved. To show weakness of any kind in the wild is virtually a death sentence when predators lurk around every corner.
As humans, we have learned to identify pain in pets. We may not always get it right, but we can look for certain signals that let us know when our pets are uncomfortable. Here are a few of the top signs you should be on the lookout for when you’re attempting to diagnose your pets.
Cats are notorious for hiding when they are in pain. In the wild, animals will hide until the pain subsides so as not to show weakness to a predator. Domestic cats demonstrate this same behavior but it may not be as pronounced. You may notice they are not relaxing with the family as much, refuse to play, might choose to sleep in a new location that is dark and cool. Hiding is perhaps the number one sign that your feline is not feeling well.
Dogs are very good at hiding pain when they want something, such as a ball, a treat or just some extra attention. This trait is especially prevalent in competition dogs or dogs that share their homes with other dogs. For this reason, you will need to be extra observant in watching your pack: a simple shift in weight can indicate that there is a problem in some pets.
If a normally sweet dog or cat suddenly begins growling or hissing when you pet them, there is a strong likelihood that your pet is in pain. They may take it out on other animals in the household by posturing or picking fights, or they may just be completely intolerant of touch. Take this behavior very seriously and get them into a veterinarian.
This is another sign of pain levels in pets. Licking is a soothing response for most animals, but if they are suddenly licking a new area or licking to the point they are losing hair, be sure you get them in for a checkup.
For the most part, animals are naturally clean. Cats groom themselves and each other, dogs will work on their own grooming as well. Along these lines, your pets coat is one of the best indicators of illness. If a naturally clean animal suddenly becomes unkempt, or their coat becomes very dry and brittle or very oily, it’s time for a checkup.
Shivering, yawning (also a sign of stress), refusing to obey, panting heavily, drooling and crying are all signs that your pet may be in trouble. Some animals exhibit many of these responses during the course of a day.
Only you know your pet. If you notice an unusual behavior, please take the time to get your pet into the veterinarian for a checkup and be sure to let the doctor know about the unusual behavior.
What does your pet do when (s)he is experiencing pain?