July 10, 2015
It’s only recently that veterinary medicine has given much importance to acknowledging pain in animals. Pain is sometimes difficult to detect (for example, a dog that limps or growls), but most of the time there are no signs. When we’re in pain, we say it: “It hurts, I’m in pain.” A chronic pain will probably go unnoticed if the person doesn’t mention. As for pets, they don’t complain when they are in pain. This explains why a deep or chronic pain may last for a very long time. Animals often suffer in silence, trying to be active while enduring the pain. Even if they don’t complain loudly, the quality of life may be severely affected due to pain.
Fortunately, our pets give us some signs, without being aware they’re doing it. When in pain, their behaviour changes: they want to lie down all the time, sleep longer, hide, breathe more quickly, are less energetic when going for a walk, don’t welcome us at the door, etc. The presence of one or several of those signs may hide the pain. Also, a lack of appetite is a good indication of discomfort. Nausea or pain (thoracic, abdominal or at a leg) may affect the appetite of your cat or dog and even lead to complete anorexia.
We can help a pet in pain, and the faster we do it, the better. With certain medical conditions, pain is light at first but grows if the disease is not controlled. Controlling pain is more efficient at an early stage. Waiting will only worsen the situation because the pain will increase and trying to control it may prove inefficient.
It is important to know that pain levels may vary and that pets feel it differently from another. Your veterinarian will help by prescribing medication or a combination of medication and supplements depending on the nature and cause of the pain. It’s important though to refrain treating your pet by giving them painkillers or anti-inflammatory medication formulated for humans for this can have disastrous consequences.
A good indication that pain is under control is when a pet returns to its normal behaviour, i.e. when it wants to be petted, play, and eat (when appetite returns, everything’s good :)).
As veterinarians, we’re happy when we can contribute to ensuring that your pets enjoy the best quality of life possible!