September is Animal Pain Awareness Month. It’s easy for us to get the help we need when we are in pain or not feeling well. We are able to talk about it, explain it, and describe it in hopes of getting help to make the pain go away! Since your fur baby doesn’t have the same communication skills we do, we have to look out for signs that they might be in pain or distress. If you are unsure about what to keep an eye out for, here are some signs your pet may be in pain and what you can do to help them!
1. Heavy breathing
For some dogs, heavy breathing is normal especially after playing, walking in the hot sun, or just getting excited! Over time, you will begin to learn what kind of heavy breathing is normal for your dog. If they do it repeatedly and don’t exhibit any sort of discomfort, you can probably assume everything is okay! However, if the breathing becomes laboured and intense over time, there is definitely something troubling your pup!
Some dog breeds are just naturally more vocal than others. For example, Hounds, Huskies, and Chihuahuas are very vocal, and tend to “speak their mind” a lot! If your dog is part of a dog-walking group, you might hear all kinds of noises coming from them! Sometimes these vocalizations can signal different things, with one of them being a pain. If you find your dog is more vocal than usual, and they are whining, growling, whimpering or even hissing (mostly heard in cats) then they might literally be trying to tell you something! You may hear these types of noises more especially if your pet has been through surgery.
3. Sudden, unexplained aggression
If your once calm fur baby suddenly develops a temper and becomes a little more aggressive towards you, don’t take that as your dog is trying to misbehave on purpose. They could be trying to signal to you that they don’t want to be touched because they are feeling pain somewhere! Any noticeable change in the behaviour of your pet is always a cause for concern! If you are ever in doubt, don’t hesitate to call your vet.
4. Difficulty getting around
If your normally once energetic pet now seems sluggish, and unwilling to jump onto the couch or climb the stairs, it might be because they are feeling some sort of pain or discomfort that is triggered by movement. Stiffness and limping are two of the biggest signs that your pet might be in pain. This could be due to sore paws, the result of an injury, or even arthritis.
5. Paying special attention to cats
Since cats are more subdued by nature, it might be harder to tell if your cat is in pain, especially if they haven’t had any recent traumas or accidents. Cats tend to hide their pain as an evolutionary tactic from their days in the wild before they became more domesticated. The reason behind this is to avoid appearing weak in front of predators in order to protect themselves.
Since cats don’t “communicate” as much as dogs do, some common signs to look out for are hiding, sitting still and hunched up, purring, excessive meowing/unusual vocalization, and most notable: doing their business outside of the litter box.
6. Excessive Grooming
Have you noticed your pet constantly licking, or scratching at the same part of their body? To some degree is licking is very normal behavior, since pets do groom themselves to an extent. However, when the licking becomes excessive and most importantly, localized, that is definitely a cause for concern. When a pet is in pain or experiencing discomfort, they tend to try and soothe themselves.
7. What to do if your pet is in pain
The most common solution to figuring out what to do if your pet is in pain is to simply take them to the vet! Your vet can rule out whether or not your pet is suffering from any allergies, physical pain, or anything else unusual that’s causing a change in behavior. Contacting your vet as soon as possible can help catch any issues early, and start a treatment plan right away.