Whenever humans suffer from pain, we express it in many different ways including holding the stricken area, grimacing, vocalizing distress or posting about it on social media. Animals can also display that they are in pain, though their ways may be a bit different.
Because animal pain is not always so recognizable to the average owner, the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) established September as Animal Pain Awareness Month. Acute pain is typically easy to observe and recognize in animals, as it tends to show through exaggerated limping or urgent vocalizations. But for dogs and cats, as well as other pets, there are some other ways to note if they may be feeling pain.
Some of these may be more obvious than others, but knowing how to spot possible signs of pain can make the difference between getting your pet prompt medical attention to alleviate their issues or having them suffer in silence. Something to note: many of the signs listed below will need to be weighed against what is normal for your pet. For example, excessive sleeping as a sign of pain is easier to spot in dogs than in cats. If you have a cat, note this sort of sign against how much they usually sleep.
Signs of Pain in Dogs, Cats & Other Pets
- Sleeping longer and more often than is typical for your pet
- Grooming excessively, typically in a single area
- Focused chewing or scratching on a single area, sometimes to the point of mutilation
- Hunched over and other changes in posture, also called guarding
- Difficulty rising and standing up after sitting or lying down
- Inability to run as fast or as often as normal
- Decreased appetite or refusing to eat at all
- Decreased or stopping of grooming
- Increased agitation, snapping or snarling
- Acting depressed, withdrawn or uninterested
- Trembling and shaking more than is typical for the weather
- Heavy panting or labored breathing
- Hiding or refusing to come when called (referred to commonly as denning)
If your pet exhibits one or more of these signs, they may be experiencing pain. Schedule an appointment today to address any health issues right away so your pet can lead a pain-free life.