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Listen with your eyes to tell if your pet is in pain

We’re having a mild winter, but still seem to be seeing animals experiencing more aches and pains that usual. Arthritis affects a large number of older animals, and can often happen early in animals after injuries too. A common misconception is that they can’t be in too much pain if they are still mobile and not crying.

Acute (sudden) pain and Chronic (longterm, ongoing) pain are two different things. As a person, dropping something on your toe will probably make you yelp, but battling arthritis or recovering from a sprained joint won’t. You would continue to work and walk about as usual, maybe stepping a bit more carefully on uneven or slippery flooring, maybe bracing yourself more than usual when getting out of bed.

We often hear owners remark that their elderly pets are “just old and slowing down”. Often people with chronic pain slow down too, without their pain being apparent to others, and it’s the same with our pets. They might not be able to tell us they’re in pain, but they do show us with their behaviour.

These subtle indicators, when evaluated objectively and looked at in a sum total, are often striking. A dog who resists climbing stairs, jumping on the bed, tires after a short walk, doesn’t want to get up in the morning, those are all strong indicators of potential pain. Cats are even harder to interpret. Chronic pain in cats is often accompanied with behavioral changes and only occasionally with an obvious physical impairment such as lameness.  These behavioral changes may be easily overlooked or assumed to be an inevitable effect of advancing age.  The most common signs of chronic pain in cats include decreased grooming with matted coats in cats that have always been well groomed, reluctance to jump up or down (or jumping up using smaller steps, onto a chair to get to a window sill for example). Other changes might include altered sleeping habits, decrease in activity, withdrawing from human interaction, stiffness, hiding, and aversion to being stroked or brushed. Sometimes we only get one sign; the cat’s no longer on the kitchen counter, perhaps, or maybe the cat is urinating outside of the litter box because the edges are too high to climb over comfortably.

Life-style changes including weight loss and physical therapy are excellent options for controlling the progression of the disease and offering relief from discomfort.  Weight loss is one of the most effective management tools to alleviate the pain.  Gradual weight loss can have profound effects, decreasing the strain and stress on affected joints and ultimately improving the overall health. Our nurses can help you weigh your pet free of charge and work out a safe weight loss program for you- please book a free consultation if you think your pet may benefit.  

There’s no need for a pet to suffer, not with the extensive toolbox we now have access to. The best pain control in pets, as in people, comes with using more than one approach, to address pain from multiple fronts. Nutritional supplements, weight loss, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, physiotherapy…… If your pet has any changes in behaviour, from reluctance to eat to a change in exercise tolerance, give us a call. We’ve got lots we can do.