Your furry companion, whether a temporary house guest or permanent family member, has been behaving differently and you are concerned they may be in pain, but how do you know for sure?
Your dog or cat can experience pain while at home for a number of reasons, including; a broken bone, a muscle or ligament injury, a toothache, an underlying gastrointestinal issue or even cancer.
Our beloved four-legged family members can’t specifically tell us when they are in pain but we can use our investigative skills to recognise certain behavioural cues.
Behavioural changes are clues that may be an indication your pet is experiencing pain and you can use them to determine the origin of the pain and whether a trip to the vet is needed.
Here are the top 5 signs your dog or cat is experiencing pain.
If you can see your dog or cat limping this is an obvious sign of pain. It could be an indication of a broken bone, a muscle strain, bony cancer, a ligament tear, certain tick-borne diseases or even a thorn in-between the toes.
For older dogs, many will experience degenerative arthritis which causes painful stiffness and limping.
For limping that continues for over 24 hours then a vet visit is recommended.
Our pets can’t speak to us to tell us the words “I’m in pain” but they do vocalise their discomfort in other ways.
This can take the form of excessive barking, meowing, whimpering, groaning, grunting, whining or howling.
It can be difficult to know which certain area of the body they are experiencing pain, however many animals will react or cry out in pain when a specific body part is touched or manipulated. This is more than likely where the sore spot is.
For example, a dog or cat with an upset stomach may react with a vocal display when their owners pick up as they are in a great deal of pain.
Be aware of these vocal cues and if they persist or cause concern see your vet.
Loss of appetite is another key indicator your pet may be experiencing pain. If your fur baby isn’t as eager for their meal as normal or are leaving behind more than normal this could indicate discomfort or an underlying medical issue.
For example, a tooth infection or severe dental disease can be extremely painful resulting in a loss of appetite. Read more "Causes and Warning Signs for Dental Disease".
BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE: HIDING OR AGGRESSIVE
Pets can often display various behavioural and temperament changes from hiding to wanting more attention to aggression and more.
In nature injured animals will hide from predators to increase their chance of survival and this instinct can be seen in some pets. Sick or painful pets might attempt to hide to avoid brining attention to their illness.
You may notice your pooch or kitty tucked under a different piece of furniture, being less social or wanting to spend more time outside.
Dogs may also become more aggressive than normal, especially when the painful area is touched. It is important to be careful as a normally friendly dog may ty to bite when in pain.
Behavioural changes vary from pet to pet and are very individual. Keep an eye on these specific behaviour changes.
If you notice a change in your fur babies energy level or lack of interest in normal game, activities or exercise this could be a red flag.
Your pet may experenice these systoms if they have a tick, which can be present all year round in Australia. Read more about ticks and how to check your pet: "The Miniature Assassin: Your Guide To Being TIck Smart"
The key indicators of lethargy can be more time spent sleeping or laying around, slower to rise, and disinterest in normal activities such as playing with toys, going into the litter box or going on walks.
Pets may also change their behaviour including not wanting to go upstairs, jump onto furniture or exercise for long.
Pet owners know their pets’ normal energy level and daily exercise routines so if you observe a change it is best to seek advice and an examination from your vet.
The earlier we recognise signs of pain or illness usually the better prognosis for treating our pets.