How to recognize and relieve your pet’s pain
Nevada Appeal News Service
Acute pain results from a single injury event, surgery, inflammation or infection. Chronic pain is ongoing due to disease or the aging process. Our best friends, especially cats, tend to hide injury and pain as a survival instinct. Lost pets who are injured often stay silent, hiding in bushes or in crawl spaces at their own homes. They do not cry out because to do so would attract predator attention. Some pets learn to tolerate ongoing pain, which makes it more difficult to detect. However, with pets living longer and experiencing types of pain similar to that of aging humans, ongoing research is developing new techniques and safer medications to treat animal pain. The critical first tep in pet pain management is pet owner awareness of pet pain signals.
Silent signals to notice include odd chewing habits, bad breath and face rubbing, all of which can signal dental problems or mouth tumors. Joint paint can produce weight gain from lack of mobility and exercise. Pain brings weight loss from loss of appetite or simply inability to bend or reach to access food. Pulling back or hiding to avoid touch is a signal. Decreased willingness to play, difficulty getting into the car or up or down stairs signals pain. Sore joints as well as urinary infections may make it impossible to avoid elimination accidents in the home.
Other changes indicating possible pain are being unusually quiet, listless or unresponsive; whining, whimpering, howling, or constantly meowing; biting; constantly licking or chewing at a particular spot; personality changes, either aggressive or submissive; flattening ears against the head; restless sleeping; seeking affection more than usual; unable to get comfortable; decreased grooming by cats, altered facial expression and/or posture – any change in normal behavior – can be an expression of pain. Increased heart rate, rapid or heavy breathing, higher body temperature and blood pressure, and dilated pupils are other pain indicators.
It is important to discuss your concerns with your veterinarian quickly. As you and your pet enter the exam room, many veterinarian measure your pet’s pain using a defined pain scale during a three-step observation process. The veterinarian first watches movement and behavior without interacting. Then he or she observes the pet’s reaction to verbal interaction without physical touch. The third step includes touching your pet with focus on areas where injury or disease are suspected or known.
In addition to pain medications, there are options such as acupuncture, homeopathy, holistic medicine and aromatherapy for animals. According to the American Animal Hospital Association, acupuncture is the most commonly used alternative therapy. As with all animal disease and illness, medication is safe only when given with the advice of a veterinarian. Some human painkillers, such as acetaminophen in products like Tylenol, are toxic even in small doses.
To help prevent pet pain, stay bonded to your best friend with massage-like petting sessions which can reveal sores, injuries, changes in coat texture, torn nails or pads. Observe lovingly and knowingly each day to quickly spot any change your pet is trying to communicate to you. Be aware so you can be there when your beloved friend needs you the most.
• Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals to help “Keep Tahoe Kind.” Dawn Armstrong is the executive director of the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and SPCA.