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Signs of Pain in Cats and Dogs

In the last few decades, many great strides have been made in pain management for cats and dogs. A large part of that is becoming better at recognizing when they are in pain as animals can be very subtle in their signs. Until the day we can have a direct and meaningful conversation with our pets about how they’re feeling, we will have to rely on reading body language and behavior. Their nervous systems are like ours, so it is reasonable to assume that if it would cause you pain, it will produce the same effect for our pets. Sometimes pain is obvious: they’re limping, they cry out when touched, etc. Here a Lincoln, NE veterinarian will discuss the more subtle signs you could miss.

Dogs in general will start to slow down. They may have a hunched back. Maybe they lag behind on walks. Any changes in behavior can be a sign of pain. Unexpected aggressiveness when touched can be a major sign. Sometimes they may begin to excessively lick an area that is in pain. A decrease or complete loss of appetite is another big red flag. You may notice your dog whimpering more often too. If your dog seems unable to get comfortable or is restless, chances are they are hurting. Pay attention to how they are holding their ears and mouth. If ears are down and flat or slightly forward, that can be a sign. The corner of their mouth should line up with the outer edge of the eye (this doesn’t work for flat-faced dogs), if it is being held forward, that’s a grimace of pain. When petting them, their body may feel tense or rigid if they are painful enough.

Cats are especially subtle, and this is possibly because we are only just recently starting to become better educated about reading feline body language and behavior. Cats will start to withdraw socially. You may find them sleeping or curled up more than they used to. Any change in their normal routine should get you thinking something may be wrong. You may find them not only sleeping more, but hiding more. Their coat may lose some of its shininess or softness. Intensified grooming of a painful spot is possible. Their appetite will decrease or they may stop eating altogether. If the pain is intense enough they may become aggressive. This can be generalized or only when touching a painful spot. Painful areas may become tense or rigid to the touch as well.

Pain symptoms clearly range from the obvious to the very difficult to notice. Luckily, your Lincoln, NE veterinarian is trained to recognize these signs and get your pet the comfort they deserve. That is why annual or bi-annual exams are so vital to your pets’ health and wellbeing. Call your Lincoln, NE veterinarian today and get an appointment if you are concerned about your pet, or if it’s just been awhile since you’ve been in!


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