Historically, it has been assumed that animals do not feel pain in the same way humans do. It was even thought that pain after surgery was beneficial, limiting an animal’s movement and preventing further injury. Now, however, we have a much better understanding of how pain develops and advances. It is now known that dogs and cats have neural pathways and neurotransmitters that are similar, if not identical, to those of humans – meaning that our pets likely experience pain in the same ways we do.
Veterinary practitioners now have much more insight into how certain medications work to control pain. This is important because untreated pain decreases quality of life and actually prolongs recovery from surgery, injury, or illness.
Managing pain involves looking for its signs and asking the right questions. Many animals will not show obvious signs of pain, making it difficult to notice if you do not know what to look for. We here at The Veterinary Hospital consider educating you, the owner, on the signs of pain in your pet of the utmost importance. Listed below are some of the most common indicators that your pet may be experiencing pain.
- Decreased activity or lethargy
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased grooming (in cats)
- Inappropriate urination or bowel movements (going where they shouldn’t or don’t normally go)
- Vocalization (whining, crying, yelping)
- Hiding (especially in cats)
- Increased body tension or flinching when touched
- Constant licking or chewing on a particular area of the body
If pain is properly recognized so that it can be treated, your pet will live a happier, healthier life.
Reference: AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats