Recognising Pain in Pets

It can be quite tricky to identify that your furry little friend is in pain! It can also be confusing as to when you should be seeking advice from your Veterinarian!

So what is pain?
Pain can be both an unpleasant stimulant and an emotional experience that can be associated with nerve or tissue damage, awareness and stress. Our furry family members are unable to speak to us so it is up to us to try and recognize the signs of injury and illness and to then respond appropriately!

Pain can be useful in your pet’s everyday life but it is important to know the difference between normal and abnormal pain.

What kinds of pain are there?
There two main types of pain our Vets see.

Acute (sudden) pain is the body’s reaction to an injury or illness such as a broken bone or gastroenteritis.

Chronic (long term or recurrent) pain, is a persistent pain that has exceeded the usual time frame for healing from disease or illness, such as pancreatitis or arthritis.

When should you seek help from a Veterinarian?
If you are concerned that your pet is in pain then a Vet visit is already warranted for you and your pet’s wellbeing and peace of mind. If you are unsure then a call to your Vet can help you to make the decision to monitor at home, make an appointment or go straight to the Vet if it is an emergency. No one knows your pet better than you do, so if you are uncertain it is better to be safe and make an appointment to see your Vet.

What might happen at the Vet consultation?
Our Vet will ask you for some information regarding your pet’s health history and conduct a physical examination of your pet. Sometimes further diagnostics such as blood tests, x-rays, ultrasounds, and behavioral assessments provide that extra critical information needed for diagnosis and treatment.

A blood test can provide significant information by indicating how your pets internal organs are functioning.

X-rays and ultrasounds may also provide valuable information by visually showing body function without invasive surgery.

As pain is highly associated with emotional distress, a behavioural assessment may also provide additional crucial information when diagnosing pain in pets. A behavioural assessment will help with assessing pet fears, anxiety, and shock.

How do we treat pain?
Pain can be treated in a number of ways such as surgical or medical intervention.

Surgical intervention is a treatment option only a Veterinarian can deem is required to ease your pet’s pain. Surgical intervention is commonly continued with medical intervention.

Medical intervention or analgesics are medications that interfere with how your pet identifies pain, how pain is transmitted and/or how pain is regulated within the body. Sometimes more than one medication is prescribed to adequately control your pets pain!

Without the use of analgesics to control pain, our pets focus on coping with pain rather than resting resulting in a longer recovery time.

Analgesics can also be used to reduce stress and anxiety when visiting a Vet. They can also be used to have a sedative effect for our pets. This use can allow your pet to feel more comfortable by reducing the energy put into pacing and vocalization.

Other pain treatments may include cold compress, moist heat compress, massage, exercise, hydrotherapy, and nutrition. These treatments can be included after a Vet assessment to reduce further harm and to encourage normal body function.

What happens now?
A Veterinarian is required to recheck your pet’s overall health, reassess their pain and revise their treatment plan to ensure your pet’s pain is effectively controlled and to minimize side-effects from medications. Vets are also required to physically assess your furry family member’s health, sometimes requiring on-going blood tests, every 6 months when prescribing medication.


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