Animal Pain Awareness Month

Animal Pain Awareness Month

This episode of Vet Chat, Dr. Ryan Llera discusses pain in pets, knowing and understanding the signs when our pets are in pain, what we can do to help our pets, and why we shouldn’t wait to help pets that are in pain.

Animal Pain Awareness Month

Common Signs of Pain in your Pet. Graphic by IVAPM

Picture this: you’ve tripped over something and hurt your leg and now you’re limping. Maybe you don’t feel like eating, maybe you get snappy with friends and family. What can you do? Call for help, take pain meds, go to your doctor. Now what if you were a cat or dog or other pet?

Animals can feel just as much pain as people do, maybe even more, the difference is our pets need help getting taken care of and that’s why you’re there! When it comes to an injury, nothing bothers me more than hearing a pet owner say “I don’t think it’s painful.”  The truth is, your pet hurts and it doesn’t always manifest the typical or expected way.

Animal Pain Awareness Month

Could you tell the signs of pain in your dog?

Many people think an animal will cry out in pain. Sure, whimpering or yowling may be involved but just because they’re absent doesn’t mean our pets are not hurting. Animals will express pain in many ways, including loss of appetite, antisocial or aggressive behaviour, fever, shaking, lethargy, and not moving, just to name a few. Yes, if they seem fine but are holding a leg up, that leg hurts.

Animal Pain Awareness Month

Our pets express pain in different ways

In a few instances, pets may recover in their own over some time, but why wait? Why should our pets be uncomfortable?  And don’t give me any excuses about “nature taking its course” or “they’re tough.” Pain meds are not an option — they’re a necessity! That being said, please don’t self-prescribe medications for your pets from your own medicine cabinet as it might do more harm than good.

Veterinary medicine has advanced so that your pets can live a happy, comfortable, and long life.  There’s even the International Academy of Veterinary Pain Management to help make sure your family veterinarian has all the tools and updated info to keep giving your pet the best care possible.  Face it, animal health care is at the same level, if not better, in some regards than human medical care.  So let’s do what’s best for our animal friends and give them the comfort they deserve.

To understand and learn more of the common signs of pain in dogs and cats, you can read this post written by International Academy of Veterinary Pain Management (IVAPM).

Have you ever felt that something was “just not right” with your pet, did they try to “hide” their pain from you? What was it that made you realize they were hurting?

Thank you to Dr. Llera for sharing and informing us on this important topic of pain awareness and management in animals.
Dr. Ryan LleraDr. Ryan Llera is a small animal veterinarian at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic in Kingston, Ontario. Though originally from Florida, he married a Canadian (who is also a vet!) and they share their home with 2 cats, 2 dogs, 2 horses, and a rabbit. Ryan is also a regular guest writer for the Ontario SPCA blog. You can find more of his writing at drryanllera.com or see what else he is up to on Facebook & Instagram

Author: Kelly Harding with Edie The Pug

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21 Comments

  1. This is such an important post – thank you. We’ve been experiencing a number of these signs with Henry. He has been diagnosed with an arthritic shoulder. We’re working with a naturopathic DVM as well as our family DVM to mange his pain. He is doing well. I will definitely share this post!

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    • Thank you for sharing and I hope Henry gets the treatment and help he needs to manage his pain.

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  2. Big dogs, especially mastiffs, are notorious for being very stoic about their pain. When my first mastiff had bone cancer, the only way you could tell she was in pain was her limp and panting in the end. That was such a heartbreaking experience and one that showed me how important it is to make sure, even in the absence of obvious signs, that we keep our pets comfortable and pain-free. This post provides some great reminders for pet owners! Thank you!

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  3. Being observant to their pain is so important – especially if it is chronic pain. I got so used to seeing one of my dogs limping and the vet saying it was arthritis, that it took a friend to point out that my dog was in severe pain and it was not arthritis. So I got another opinion and it was bone cancer.

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    • I am so sorry about your dogs diagnoses of cancer. It’s heartbreaking when our pets are not well and I can’t even imagine being told any of my pets have cancer. Hugs to you

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  4. Cats are notorious for hiding their pain! I’m lucky I’m around Truffle and Brulee all the time now and can sense when “something isn’t quite right.” I don’t hesitate for an instant to get them to the vet.

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    • Yes, cats are notorious for hiding their pain!
      With two cats of my own I know how difficult it can be knowing and understanding if and when they are in pain or not feeling well. I couldn’t understand why my senior cat was suddenly very active, eating more and not sleeping well until I took her for a checkup and blood work to find out she needed thyroid medication! Thankfully it was found out and she is now being treated and feeling so much better.

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  5. Just a week ago, my Puggle mix refused to jump up on the sofa (for the first time ever.) The next day he started limping and couldn’t go up the stairs. I took him to the vet and she thought he had sciatica nerve pain. A couple of days later, I brought him for x-rays just to be sure, and he has hip dysplasia. I watch my dogs carefully, and that night was the first time I ever saw any sign of pain. He had just visited the vet in August for a well check up and everything seemed fine, even his hips. (No x-rays were taken though.)

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    • Oh dear, I can only imagine the worry you had when this happened! I know whenever Edie just looks at me differently I get worried. I hope your little puggle is not in too much pain and feels better soon!

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  6. Thank you for sharing these important signs of pain… it’s so hard to communicate when you can’t speak human!

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  7. Oe of the reasons our seniors go for 6 monthly checks ( and more if I am worried) is to ensure there is no pain. Sometimes it is SO difficult to convince our Harvey (14) that his food is good for him or that a vitamin might help * sigh * BUT I keep trying. It’s all part of the knowing you cat (or dog) isn’t it? Does your pet (like the golden in the picture) not want to play their usual fun games – this should make an owner worry. We may have a houseful but I do my best to keep an eye on those who need it most.

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    • Well said! And I couldn’t agree with you more about taking our senior pets in for bi-yearly checkups!

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  8. Love the information in this post! There are so many ways that our pets show us they’re in pain, many are much more nuanced and easy to overlook if you aren’t paying attention. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. Mr. N is super cuddly when he’s not feeling well. If he doesn’t want to go on a walk, that’s definitely trouble and reason to go to the vet asap! With our foster dog, if he didn’t eat that meant something dire.

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    • I think we know what is important to our pet – going for a walk or getting a treat or eating, and then all of a sudden they are no longer interested in that thing that makes them happy or excited, is a good indication that there could be an issue and we need to seek medial attention.

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  10. Great post. I can remember two times when my pet was in pain. The first time there was no warning until I picked my cat up to greet her and the second her bottom region touched my arm she winced in pain. As it turned out I called the vet immediately and she has an infection and needed surgery. The second time my intuition let me know. She wasn’t eating much, lethargic and not herself. Unfortunately her cancer was taking over and she was dying. It was heartbreaking to euthanize however her agony was short lived. I didn’t want to give her a poor quality of life.

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    • I’m so sorry that you and your cat had to go through this 🙁
      Watching how our pets act, if they are going off their food, or avoiding being with us is a good indication that something is just not right, but like you did by holding them and touching/feeling them all over can help indicate a painful area that we may not have been aware of is a good idea!

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  11. I’m always watching my dogs intently, making sure everything seems ok with them. They’re getting older now and I have to pay a lot of attention. Their eating habits are one thing that always gives me a clue; I discovered Phoebe’s tooth problem and Icy’s belly issues by watching how much they ate or didn’t eat. Sometimes a dog won’t eat much and their sibling dog will gobble up their uneaten food. You have to really watch that they both eat their food, I learned not to assume each one has eaten if you didn’t see it!
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

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    • Very good point! Paying attention to our pets food intake can be an indication that something is not right, but it can also make it difficult when they share, or have a tendency to eat each others food. Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

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  12. Oh, thank you so very much for bringing attention to this! It’s so true that because they can’t speak through voices, they may simply withdraw when feeling pain, just as humans do sometimes. I”ll be sure to share this with senior pet owners. Thanks for sharing, Leanne

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    • Thank you for sharing!

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