Animals are stoic when it comes to exhibiting signs of discomfort or pain. They do it because their survival instincts tell them that showing pain demonstrates to predators that they're vulnerable. As a pet owner, you need to know when your pet is hurting, how to interpret the signs and what steps to take when you realize that something's wrong. Following are some tips to help you identify the signs of pain and how to react.
Signs Your Pet is Experiencing Discomfort or Pain
Animals can tell us when they’re in pain through body language that, once known, readily indicates signs of distress. The most common signs include:
- Excessive licking and/or grooming in a specific location which can indicate external or internal pain.
- Hiding. Cats are more prone to hiding than dogs, but both species will hide in response to their instinct to be quiet and try to heal up without attracting attention.
- Excessive vocalization that includes growling, whimpering or howling in dogs. Some animals are talkative which can make it harder to detect this as a sign of pain. Pay close attention to vocalizations that are unusual or out of the ordinary for your pet to determine if there's something wrong with them.
- Loss of agility, movement or ability to jump. This indicates discomfort or pain with the action of jumping and can be the result of a chronic condition or injury.
- Loss of appetite. Usually associated with gastrointestinal distress. If an animal goes off their food suddenly, call the vet immediately.
- Restlessness or signs of agitation. This is most common in dogs, but cats may exhibit restlessness as well. The pain can be so strong that the animal can't relax and keeps moving in search of relief.
- Heavy panting is also common in dogs, but cats can exhibit the behavior as well. This is another indicator that the pet is in distress from pain.
When you notice your pet exhibiting any of these behaviors that are outside their normal behaviors, you should investigate further to determine if there's a source of pain or discomfort causing the issue.
What to Do if Something is Wrong With Your Pet
Sometimes the signs of pain are a chronic condition becoming obvious, sometimes it's an emergency situation. You should call your veterinarian at the first sign of a problem with your pet and discuss what you're seeing with the staff at the vet's office. They will guide you through steps to help determine if it's an emergency or non-emergency situation and advise you on what you should do next. Some situations require immediate veterinary care in order to save the life of your pet. Even if the cause of the pain is non-life threatening, a visit to the vet in a timely fashion can get your pet pain relief sooner or later.
Don't give your pet medication of any kind unless directed to by the vet's office. Some medications are toxic to animals and can make the condition worse. Keep them as comfortable as possible, make sure they're in a quiet room, and they have their necessities near them.