September: Animal Pain Awareness Month
Just like humans, all animals experience pain, however they have a different way of expressing it. Their survival instinct makes them hide it, making them suffer in silence.
Pain in our pets is defined as any damage that is done either physically or emotionally, or that which can be caused by trauma, such as a traffic accident, physical aggression or pathological pain due to some degree of illness or condition.
Various factors may be related to pain in animals, some may be related to bone or joint chronic diseases. They also experience pain from surgeries, blows, fractures, cancer, among others. It can be complicated because pain can easily be hidden or confused with old age, and it’s not always related to this factor.
According to Dr. Leonardo Solórzano of Innovavet Veterinary Clinic, there are two types of physical pain: chronic pain, which occurs over time and can last from days to months; and acute pain, which occurs at the present time due to internal or external causes, such as a blow or pancreatitis. However, it’s easier for humans to identify acute pain, since the signs of chronic pain in animals are less obvious, making them more difficult to detect.
“It takes longer for humans to identify chronic pain in animals, because it develops slowly until it reaches the point where the patient can no longer stand it, and then shows obvious signs of suffering. That’s why it’s so important that we keep in mind that the pain threshold in animals is higher than in humans”, he says.
Although animals are not able to tell us exactly what or where it hurts, there are some signs that let us know when our pet is experiencing pain.
Signs of physical pain:
- Little physical activity or enthusiasm for playing.
- Won’t / can’t go up or down stairs.
- Poor appetite.
- Difficulty getting up if lying.
- Repeatedly licking / scratching a certain area of their body.
- Changes in urine and feces.
- Increased panting or difficulty breathing.
- Crying or excessive barking.
- Aggressive or anxious behavior.
- Increased body temperature.
- Changes in posture (way of sitting, lying down, walking).
- Nervous or anxious walk.
In addition, it’s important to understand that in many cases, physical pain can lead to emotional pain in an animal, since suffering affects their behavior and mood.
Some recommendations to prevent pain or manage it properly are:
- Adopting a healthier lifestyle for your pet, for example, making improvements in diet, exercise or playtime. This helps prevent future illnesses and help your pet have a happier, longer life.
- Consider alternative and non-pharmacological options for pain management such as acupuncture, laser therapy, therapeutic massage, hydrotherapy, among others.
- Keep check ups and vaccinations up to date.
- Before making any changes or choosing alternative medicine, consult your veterinarian about your pet’s behavior and health, since he/she is the best person to detect any anomaly.
In conclusion, it’s necessary for humans to be responsible for our pets. It’s of utmost importance to pay attention to any pain signals and go immediately to a veterinarian you trust, to perform the relevant assessment and provide your pet with the necessary treatment so that they can have a happy life.