It’s a common misconception that pets are like children and cry or whine when they don’t feel well or are painful. Dogs and cats are designed to survive in the wild and to do so, they cannot show weakness. Unfortunately, because of this, we often times miss the signs that our pet is ill or in pain until it becomes too unbearable for them to hide. After a surgical procedure, no matter how minor or extensive, your pet will feel pain. Your veterinarian is trained to understand the extent of pain and discomfort your pet will feel after a procedure, so it is very important to give the medications prescribed as directed and for the full duration prescribed. Too often, pet owners stop giving medications sooner than directed because they do not understand that just because your pet appears to be feeling well, doesn’t mean they do not have discomfort. Many medications offer more than just pain relief. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications (NSAIDs), for example, offer anti-inflammatory relief as well as pain relief, which is a very important part of the healing process.
After an injury, pets often show pain by limping or holding up their injured leg. Even though they are not vocalizing, this is a very big sign that your pet is painful. The fact that they do not want to use a leg or paw normally is enough to indicate an increased amount of discomfort. This is a situation where your pet needs to see your veterinarian for a physical exam to determine the source or cause of the pain and how best to treat it.
The most common type of pain or discomfort that gets overlooked is arthritis. Many pet owners confuse the signs of arthritis with the simple fact that their pet is getting older. Age is not a disease! As pets age, they are more prone to certain diseases and arthritic changes, but this does not mean it isn’t manageable. Just like people, your pets’ joints get stiff and sore the older they get, and just like people, there are many different types of treatments available to manage this pain and make them feel more comfortable. Joint discomfort and arthritic changes can appear as many things such as: loss of energy, slower to move around, slow to stand from a laying or sitting position, stiffness when walking or just standing, odd or unusual gait, limping, or shifting weight from limb to limb. If your pet is showing one or more of these signs, they could be in pain. So, what do you do if you determine that your pet is showing any of these signs? The first, and most important step, is a physical exam with your veterinarian. On exam, the doctor will do a full head to toe exam that will involve palpating, flexing, and extending all the joints from their neck and back to all of their legs! This provides the doctor with a lot of valuable information; it tells them where your pet has the most discomfort and the extent of that discomfort. With this information they can best determine what type of treatment(s) will work best for your pet. There are a wide range of options for pain relief including: glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, pain relievers, anti-inflammatory pain relievers, acupuncture, muscle relaxants, laser therapy and more! Sometimes only one of these options is enough to make a huge difference in your pets comfort, other times they need a combination of treatments. Often times, pet owners say they didn’t even realize their pet was in pain until they tried treatment and saw a huge difference in their pet’s activity and attitude. Every pet needs and deserves to be evaluated for pain, after all, they give us unconditional love and affection free of any judgments, it is the least we can do for them!