Have you ever experienced a situation where your pet was acting strange, and after investigation, you find out they have an injury or illness? And they showed you no signs of any pain? I experienced this recently. I woke up one morning to discover my cat was acting very “needy,” more than usual. She was super affectionate and rubbing up against me, head butting, and getting in my face about needing attention. She usually is a sweet cat, but not generally very open with giving affection. I didn’t think much of it and went on with my day, only to discover a few hours later that she had started vomiting a lot of blood.
I rushed her to the vet and discovered she was having some significant problems with her liver. The realization that she had not felt well for a little while sickened me and made me think about how she had been acting lately. Was there anything different other than that morning? I really couldn’t recall. It made me think about how animals have an instinct of hiding how bad they can feel.
Pets are such great companions to us; the least we can do is make sure they are happy and healthy. In nature, if animals show any signs of discomfort or illness, they could become “dinner” as they are an easy target. Because this behavior is also widespread in domesticated pets, the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management dedicated the month of September to animal pain awareness. As pet owners, we can learn to recognize subtle signs or symptoms if our pets are not feeling well. Let’s talk about some common symptoms indicating that your pet may be experiencing pain or an illness, and how we can help them!
6 Common Signs That Your Pet May Be In Pain
Changes in activity level: Changes in a pet’s activity and sleeping levels could signify something else could be going on. It is essential to know what “normal” activity and sleeping levels mean for your pet. You know your pet best, and what is “normal” for one pet can be different for another pet. Pay attention if your pet starts to show any changes in their activity levels.
- Does your pet do a lot more sleeping lately?
- Is your normally “calm” dog all the sudden more restless and cannot relax?
- If there is a sudden decline in their activity level, there could be something going on. Pay attention to your pet, and see if there are any other changes besides their activity level.
Reluctance to jump up/down on things: Just like us, pets can experience pain as they are growing, or even as they are getting older. Watch for any of these changes in behavior:
- Not wanting to jump on or off the couch (if they usually do), or in the car
- Not wanting to go up or down the stairs
- Not wanting to get up much after lying down
Changes in gait when walking or standing: Changes in a pet’s gait, when walking or even just standing, could signal arthritis, illness, or a sudden injury. Watch for any of these behaviors:
- Squatting their back legs when standing
- Walking more carefully or slowly than normal
- Dragging their feet
- Being slower to get up after lying down
Excessive Grooming: Is your pet excessively grooming or licking a specific area on their body? This behavior could mean anything from skin infections, allergies, changes in mental health, or localized pain in that area. Watch for any of these behaviors:
- Excessively grooming, licking, or scratching a particular area
- Patches of fur missing
- Discoloration on the hair or skin
- Your pet doesn’t want you to touch a specific area
Changes In Appetite: Sudden changes in appetite could be a variety of things going on, anything from upset tummies, eating things they shouldn’t, to even dental problems. If your pet experiences any of these behaviors, its best to get them to the veterinarian.
- Not eating as much as normal
- Reluctance to eat at all
- Eagerness to eat, but then not eating a whole lot
- Dropping their food as they are eating
- Changes in how they are chewing their food
- Vomiting after eating
- Excessively drooling, or suddenly drooling when they don’t usually drool at all
- Suddenly losing weight
Changes In Temperament: It’s one thing to wake up cranky, but for pets, being grumpy doesn’t usually last too long. If your pet experiences a change in their personality, its time to figure out why they are acting differently.
- Look for sudden aggression or irritability
- Suddenly becoming more “cuddly” or affectionate than normal
- Suddenly wanting more attention than normal
- Suddenly more restless than normal
- Suddenly more sleepy than normal
- Suddenly not as social with other pets or people as they once were
What You Can Do To Help Your Pet
Vet Visit: Taking your pet to the veterinarian is never fun. However, before you can start to help your pet get through their issue, you must figure out what truly is going on with them. There is a wealth of information available on the internet to look up. However, too much information is not always a good thing as doing something recommended on the internet can cause a health situation, or make an existing health situation worse. Have your veterinarian examine your pet before trying any remedies to make sure there is not something serious going on. You may find out that your pet had a minor injury, and a little rest will get them back up and running in no time!
Medication, Natural Therapy, or Supplements: After your veterinarian has looked at your pet, you then can discuss any treatments for your pet’s situation. Now that you have a proper diagnosis of what may be going on, you can do some research to see what options are available. There are plenty of pain medications, natural remedies, supplements, and therapy options out there for any budget. It is essential to not give your pet any over the counter human pain medications without FIRST consulting with your veterinarian. There are many pain medications for people that are toxic to pets.
Make Things Comfortable At Home: If your pet is experiencing any pain or other ongoing issues, there are things you can do at home to help them out.
- Monitor your pets’ eating, drinking, and elimination (bathroom) habits. Inform your veterinarian of any changes. Have their food comfortably accessible to them.
- Have a pet bed available for them so they can comfortably rest when they want to.
- Help your pet get in and out of the car if they are having trouble.
- For arthritic pets, limit their amount of access to using the stairs, so it’s not such a chore when they must take the stairs. They may still need some help going up the stairs, but not doing them as often will help with discomfort.
- It’s essential to continue exercising your pet regularly. Consult with your veterinarian regarding the types or levels of exercise which might be beneficial for your pet, so the activity doesn’t worsen their condition.
- If the condition is not improving, don’t give up just yet, follow up with your veterinarian. There may be more things to try!
Whether it is just old age or a real medical issue, knowing how to help your pet will make a world of difference in their life. By knowing what is considered “normal” behaviors for your pet, you will recognize when something might be wrong. And thankfully, with the advancement in knowledge and treatments nowadays, help is just a phone call away.
For more information on recognizing pet pain, check out the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management.