Pets rarely complain about their stiff joints, painful back, or toothache—that’s a human trait. Most pets are stoic and do an excellent job of hiding their pain, often living with it for quite some time before caretakers pick up on subtle cues. To your furry friend’s detriment, she won’t let you know she’s uncomfortable. Learn more about identifying and managing your pet’s pain. Start by honing in on changes in your pet’s attitude or behavior so you can begin treating her pain as soon as it appears.

Signs of pain in pets

Since animals are masters of disguise, it’s difficult to detect the first signs of pain. Often, a pet’s pain-causing disease, such as osteoarthritis, has progressed to the point where signs are noticeable before her owner sees her discomfort. If your pet is experiencing pain, you may notice the following changes:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Reluctance to carry out favorite activities
  • Inability to jump on furniture or manage stairs
  • Decreased activity
  • Whining or whimpering
  • Restless pacing
  • Inability to lie down comfortably
  • Slow to rise
  • Inappropriate elimination
  • Poor hair coat because of decreased grooming
  • Excessive licking or chewing in one spot, especially over joints
  • Avoiding family members
  • Irritation when petted
  • Hiding

This long list of signs can be attributed to many other illnesses, in addition to pain. If you notice any change in your pet’s behavior, schedule an appointment at our clinic to get to the source. 

How to diagnose the cause of your pet’s pain

During your pet’s appointment, we will pinpoint the cause of her pain using several diagnostic techniques:

  • Gait analysis to check for limping or favoring a limb
  • Orthopedic exam to look for swelling, inflammation, heat, loss of muscle mass, and decreased range of motion
  • X-rays to view signs of osteoarthritis and intervertebral disc disease
  • Blood work to search for metabolic imbalances, infection, inflammation, or organ dysfunction

While musculoskeletal diseases are the most common causes of pain, pets can experience discomfort for other reasons, including:

  • Cancer
  • Dental disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Glaucoma
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Kidney or bladder stone
  • Corneal ulcer
  • Ear infection

Once we’ve identified the cause of your pet’s pain, we can determine the best treatment to help your pet feel comfortable again.

How we help manage your pet’s pain

An accurate diagnosis is a good starting point for your pet’s pain-management protocol. The best regimen is often multimodal, meaning we use several treatment modalities together to achieve the greatest results. Each pet responds differently to medications and therapies—some may show almost instant results, while others must allow treatment build-up for maximum effect. Depending on the source of your pet’s pain, we may recommend:

  • Steroids
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Opioids
  • Surgery
  • Laser therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic treatment
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Supplements
  • Prescription diets

A trial-and-error process is often necessary to determine the methods that best manage your pet’s pain. If your pet continues to appear uncomfortable at home, let us know, and we will create a new plan. 

At-home management of your pet’s pain

In addition to veterinary-administered or prescribed pain-management treatments, you can perform numerous pain-management therapies at home. To help keep your pet comfortable, try these tips:

  • Keep your pet at a lean weight to reduce pressure on her joints.
  • Stay on top of periodontal health by implementing at-home dental care to avoid painful gingivitis, infections, and abscesses.
  • Engage in daily exercise—this is especially important for house cats whose whole life is eating and sleeping.
  • Swap out fatty treats for lower-calorie options, such as fresh veggies and lean protein.
  • Invest in ramps for furniture and vehicles so your pet doesn’t have to leap up or down. 
  • Put carpet runners on slick flooring to give your pet traction.
  • Stay alert for any changes in your pet’s behavior that may indicate she is uncomfortable.
  • Research quality supplements to protect your pet’s joints.

Before beginning any major change in your pet’s lifestyle or routine, let us know. Herbal supplements may interact with medications, and some treats may harm pets, but we may have additional recommendations.

Is your furry friend eating less and lazing around more? She may be suffering from pain—schedule an appointment with us for a nose-to-tail exam to find the source of your pet’s discomfort.