Comfort and quality of life are our major goals for our furry loved ones, but because they cannot often communicate with us in a way we understand, we may find ourselves asking – is this pain? Pain in our companion animals is often a result of trauma and disease processes, just as it is in humans. Though, it can be far more difficult to recognize. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the many manifestations and behaviors that can indicate pain in our pets.
Common Indicators of Pain
- Withdrawal from surroundings or change in normal routine – hiding, seeking solitude, decreased responsiveness, unwillingness to move
- Guards or protects a certain body part
- Lameness, limping (can range from weight bearingto non-weight bearing)
- Atypical aggressive behaviors – trying to bitewhen touched, growling/hissing, etc
- Vocalizing – whining, whimpering, crying,groaning
- Unsettled, restless; cannot seem to getcomfortable
- Quiet, loss of brightness in eyes
- Abnormal body positioning – lays curled up or sits tucked up (with all limbs underneath the body, back/shoulders hunched, tail curled around body)
- Droopy ears, worried facial expression (archedeyebrows, darting eyes)
- Eyes partially or mostly closed while awake
- Not grooming (unkempt coat); or over grooming ina particular area
- Decreased appetite, lack of interest in food
So What Can I do to Help?
Fortunately, we have a number of options to help animals that are in pain (both acute and chronic) to live more comfortable, happy lives. Multimodal approaches to managing pain are often most successful. Your veterinarian may recommend the following treatments for your pet, depending on the findings of a thorough physical exam, screening lab work and, possibly, x-rays:
Anti-inflammatory and Pain Medications
These medications are the most commonly used to help treat pain and inflammation in pets.
Laser therapy provides anti-inflammatory, pain relief, faster healing, improved blood flow, decreased scar formation, and improved nerve function.
Just as in people, acupuncture can bean effective modality to control pain.
Icing in the first few days of incision/injury/trauma will reduce inflammation. Heating after the first few days will increase blood flow and healing.
Joint Supplementation (for arthritis pain)
Glucosamine is a building block for cartilage by keeping cells healthy and working properly. Chondroitin blocks the naturally occurring enzymes that break down cartilage.
Fish Oil (for arthritis pain)
Omega-3 fatty acids help decrease inflammation in the joints.
Weight Optimization (for arthritis pain)
Weight control is often the MOST important factor to reduce pain & inflammation from arthritis. Fat is PRO-INFLAMMATORY, and also places more weight on sore joints.
Joint or “Mobility” Diets (for arthritis pain)
Prescription joint diets have many benefits: Omega 3 fatty acids, glucosamine/chondroitin, carnitine (to help burn fat, maintain lean muscle), anti-oxidants.