Pain signals in cats and dogs

Our pets are biologically predisposed to hide their pain. Thousands of years of evolution has ingrained in them the importance to hide pain and weakness to stay alive. So how do we see through all this evolution and recognize when our pets are in pain?

Many of the signs are the same for both cats and dogs

Hiding- An animal in pain inherently wants to protect itself while vulnerable which leads to the next sign.

Sudden aggression- snapping, biting, hissing, or scratching. It’s how pets protect themselves. This is also one of the reasons it’s important to never punish a growl. Your dog is trying to tell you something.

Strange positioning- Just like people who may sit, stand or lay in a funny position after throwing out their back, animals will try to get as comfortable as possible, even if it looks strange.

Changes to Grooming- Animals in pain may not be able to groom themselves due to the positioning it requires or lack of energy. If you notice new swirls in your pets’ fur, similar to a cowlick, this can also be a sign of pain.

Eyes look different- Pets who are squinting or keeping are eyes closed are likely in pain. It’s similar to a human grimace face. Yellowing or copper colored eyes are also something to talk to your vet about checking for jaundice.

Lack of energy- A normally playful kitten who suddenly shows no interest in the cat dancer is likely not feeling well. The same goes for the pups.

Changes in eating habits- Eating or drinking less than normal or more is a big clue that something is going on.

Bathroom Issues- Diarrhea is an obvious signal that your pet isn’t feeling well. Looking for other things, like lots of trips to pee with very little urination, feces or urine outside the litter box or in the house, and blood in feces and urine also indicate that your pet is experiencing a medical issue.

Changes in mobility- Any time your pets gait changes, you should take notice and monitor closely. They may have bumped a paw which could resolve quickly. It could also be a sign of a broken nail (much more serious for them than it is for us), broken or fractured bones, torn ligaments and even infection or neurological problems. Cats who walk on their hocks may be experiencing complications with diabetes.

If you notice any of these signs in your pet, please contact your vet for treatment.

Diane OKeefe