Animal pain awareness month
The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) is committed to educating and informing pet owners about the importance of pain management in your pet. They aim to improve and encourage pain management through advocacy, education and awareness. Visit their website to read various educational blog posts regarding pet pain management.
September is dedicated to animal pain awareness month. As the month is drawing to a close, I thought it would be the perfect time to create a blog post to raise some awareness of signs of pain in your pet and what to do if you notice these signs.
As us humans know too well, pain can be shown in a variety of different ways and often expressed differently between individuals, which is the same for our four legged friends. Although pain can be caused by a variety of different things, it is often categorised as acute or chronic pain but one of the common questions asked is:
What is the difference between acute and chronic pain?
Acute pain is the type of pain that is more often than not easier to notice as it is often quicker, more obvious and in some cases more distressing. This type of pain is a normal, rapid and noticeable response to a painful stimulus for example landing strangely, twisting during movement or being stung. This pain tends to last for a much shorter period of time however this is dependent on the injury, with the average time being between days and a few months.
Chronic pain is a pain that is slow, progressive and “niggling”. This type of pain lasts longer than the average healing time and can be a result of long term conditions such as osteoarthritis. Chronic pain is often masked easily by our pets making it often more difficult to notice. Therefore, the signs discussed in this blog are integral to establishing if and when your pet is in pain and how to help them.
Signs that your pet may be in pain
*Please note - if you notice any of these signs in your pet, is it important to go to your local veterinarian for a thorough assessment and diagnosis*
This may be noticed as slowing down on walks or not being so eager to go for walks. This may also be seen as sleeping more often than normal or general lethargy. This may be due to movement being more difficult for them or the worry that excessive movement may lead to pain.
Not going up and down stairs
This may be seen as taking the stairs differently to normal (for example bunny hopping with the hindlimbs or taking each step much slower than normal) or your pet avoids using the stairs all together. This also incorporates not wanting to jump in and out of the car or onto surfaces for our feline friends. This may be due to the extra forces these movements place on their joints.
You may notice that after long periods of lying down or sleeping, your pet finds it difficult to rise. This may be accompanied with clicking of the joints and stiffness when moving. This is sometimes more prevalent in the morning however can occur throughout the day. This stiffness is often due to the lack of movement during lying down that causes the joints to seize up and stiffen.
Your pet may start to excessively groom an area of pain. It may be that they just groom the area that is painful or if they cannot reach this area, they may target an area that they can easily reach. This may include licking, chewing or biting the area.
and may be a sign of your pet showing where an area is painful.
Changes in behaviour
This encompasses a wide area of behaviours however this is often the most independent for your pet. Some animals mask chronic pain very well and only subtle signs can be noted such as spending less time with you, not wanting to do their favourite activity, no longer playing or a lack of interaction.
You know your pet better than anyone else when it comes to noticing these subtle changes so if you have any concerns be sure to visit your local vet.
What to do if you think your pet is in pain
Remember - if you feel your pet is displaying any of these signs, it is important to visit your vet to get a full assessment and diagnosis for your pet. There are a wide variety of things that can be done to manage your pets pain including: various medications, acupuncture, laser therapy and physiotherapy.
There are also various things that you can do to help prevent pain becoming chronic in our younger pets and also making your home safe and comfortable. Visit these previous blog posts I have written explaining home changes and weight management that can benefit your pet.