How to Know If Your Dog or Cat is In Pain

How to Know If Your Dog or Cat is In Pain

Wednesday, 27 February 2019 18:14

Sometimes it seems as if our pets wear their hearts on their sleeves - so to speak! They wag their tails or jump for joy when we return home (even if we were only gone for 10 minutes). They whine when they want to go out. They become your shadow when they’re hungry. They snuggle up with you and shower you with unconditional love just when they, and you, need it most. But how do we know when our cats or dogs are in pain? They can’t tell us with words, but they can show us with their behaviors.

Dogs and Pain

Cats and dogs often “tell” us about their pain in different ways. Let’s see how your dog may behave if he’s not feeling his usual self.  You may observe:

  1. Aggressive or Antisocial Behavior. If your dog is usually easy-going and social, this can be a big red flag. He may stop greeting you at the door, shy away from your touch, or even bark or nip at you.

He may also seem on edge: if he’s pacing, unable to get comfortable, or sleeping less, it’s best to call your veterinarian.

  1. Disruptions in Eating, Drinking, and/or Sleeping. Is your pup sleeping more? He may need rest to recover, or he may have difficulty moving around. Loss of appetite is another signal to watch for: it could be dental pain or it could be a gastrointestinal issue.
  1. Vocalization. Dogs who are in pain typically express it with increased snarling, growling, yelping, barking, howling, or whining.
  1. Changes in Breathing and Panting. He may also pant more heavily than usual or breathe in a more shallow pattern.
  1. Excessive Grooming. Is your dog licking excessively? When he’s hurt, he wants to soothe the area. This is especially common with cuts and external wounds, so keep an eye out. But if you don’t see any visible problems, there could be something going on internally.
  1. Mobility Problems. Limping or stiffness may mean that your dog has an injury, sore paws, or something more serious, such as arthritis. Does he avoid climbing stairs? Have a hard time getting up? There may be an underlying reason.
  1. Different Posture. When in pain, some dogs display it in how they stand or sit. They may stand in a very rigid, hunched stance if they’re experiencing inflammation, infection, or cancer. Others may put their front legs on the ground and their bottom in the air - this can signal abdominal issues.
  1. Shaking. This could be simple: your dog is cold or geriatric. But it could also mean there is a larger problem. Poisoning, pancreatitis, and kidney disease, for example, can result in shaking and trembling.

If you see any of these signs, please call your veterinarian. Hopefully, it’s a simple issue that can be resolved quickly and easily. If the cause is something more serious, then it is important to start treatment and explore your options as soon as possible.

Cats and Pain

As you may have guessed, cats are typically more subtle about showing they are in pain. They are also more likely to bite or scratch, even if they have never done this before. If you touch the painful area or injury, or you even approach it, your cat may lash out. This is one big way they’re telling you that they are in pain. You may also notice:

  1. Changes in Breathing. If your cat is in pain, she may breathe faster and more shallowly. Some even pant. Also, look for changes in how the abdominal and/or chest muscles move.
  1. Increased Purring. We usually associate purring with happiness or contentment. But if you notice a marked increase, your cat may be in pain.
  1. Changes in the Eyes. Changes here can mean there is an issue with the eye or that there is something else going on. If your cat has pain somewhere in her body, her pupils may be dilated (larger). If the pain is in the eye, the pupils may be constricted (smaller) and there may be redness.
  1. Changes in Eating and Drinking. It makes sense: if your cat is in pain, she usually eats and drinks much less. When they do eat, they may have difficulty. This can signal a problem with the teeth or mouth or an internal condition.
  1. Changes in Grooming. If she’s grooming an area excessively, there may be a wound she’s trying to heal and soothe. However, cats often decrease their grooming if they are ill.
  1. Changes in Energy. Look for a decrease in activity. Does she sleep more? Play less often? Does she hide under clothes or the bed? When in pain, most cats hide.

Also, look for changes in mobility. Is it more difficult for her to jump up on a perch or the couch? Does it take longer to go up the stairs? Does she have a limp or appear stiff?

  1. Issues with Urination/Defecation. If your cat has back pain, for example, it can be hard for her to get into the posture she needs to relieve her bowels. Is she going less? Pain can impact the intestines and lead to constipation. Also, joint and bone pain can make it hard for her to get in and out of the litter box. If you notice “accidents” elsewhere, she could be telling you something.

If you notice any of these signs and think your dog or cat is in pain, contact your vet immediately. You know your pet better than anyone, and often small differences in behavior or mobility are quite noticeable. Trust your instincts and get them checked out. You can schedule an appointment with Avery Creek Pet Hospital today.