Signs of pain in pets can be subtle and easily missed. Case in point: I recently saw a case of a nine year-old mixed breed dog “Radar”, who was brought in to me for “just a check up” and to update the vaccinations. A foul odor emanated from the dog and it didn’t take long to locate the source. The teeth of this poor creature were in terrible shape. A combination of genetics, and possibly diet, chewing on the wrong things, an owner that wasn’t aware dogs could have dental problems had all led up to severe dental disease. I asked the owner if the dog was in pain with such an infected mouth. Surely the loose and rotting teeth must be causing a problem. The owner’s reply was “I don’t think so, he doesn’t cry and he still eats his food”.
Nobody wants to see their pet suffering and in pain. However, sometimes it can be very difficult to know for sure whether or not your pet is in pain. Sometimes it’s quite obvious – a noticeable limp, large cut, or observed trauma, such as being struck by a car. But other times your pet’s signs of pain can be far more subtle. It’s at these times that people often need guidance on what to look for to know if their pet is in pain.
What are the signs of pain
It is important to know your pet’s normal behavior to be able to read their body language. As with many other aspects of caring for your pet, these signs will be more obvious to you (even when they are subtle) if you have a good idea of your pet’s “normal.” This includes his normal attitude, energy level, gait, appetite, thirst, sleep patterns, and other physical and behavioral patterns. After all, if you don’t know what’s “normal” it’s much more difficult to recognize the abnormal.
*Important note: When evaluating your pet for potential pain, please take great care to not get yourself (or anyone helping you) bitten. Even if your pet would never normally bite anyone, the mere fact that you’re evaluating your pet for pain indicates that he may not be in a normal state of mind.
The following list serves as a guideline only. Not all pets will show all these signs when experiencing pain. Likewise, just because a pet exhibits one of these signs it doesn’t necessarily mean they are in pain.
What to do if you think your pet is in pain: Call our Animal hospital at 604-858-4415
If your pet has been prescribed medication to counter the pain please make sure you are administering it according to directions. Avoid the temptation to give human labelled medications unless instructed by your veterinarian. Some human medications can be very toxic to pets.
Radar’s Story unfolds…
Radar was eventually brought in for his much-needed dental work. Seventeen teeth were extracted (some of which literally fell out while being examined and radiographed). His mouth was cleansed: his remaining teeth were cleaned, freed of tartar, polished and the gums flushed with an antibacterial rinse. I sutured his extraction sites with a dissolving suture and he was discharged later that day with prescriptions for infection and pain. When I rechecked “Radar’s” mouth a week later his owner was “over the moon” with joy. Not only had his bad breath cleared up but in many ways he seemed like a puppy again: he had energy, he was fetching the ball, and ate all his food with reckless abandon. All his body language before his dental work was pointing to a painful mouth. Now his life was pain-free and back to normal.
For more on this and other pet health care topics visit this the AAHA PetsMatter site and spend some time.