Is My Dog or Cat in Pain?

Dogs and cats feel pain just like humans. Whether it’s soreness, infection, muscle injury, dental problems, or other discomfort, it’s important to remember dogs and cats often express pain in ways that require you to pay close attention. While some symptoms of pain are obvious, like whimpering or trembling, subtle changes in behavior might also be an indication there is an underlying issue with your pet.

Common Dog Pain Symptoms

Noticeable signs of pain in dogs include anxiety, rapid breathing, whining, and shivering. Less noticeable signs of pain can be lack of appetite, lethargy, and elevated heart rate. If your dog’s behavior is different from his usual happy self, he could be in pain. It’s crucial that you monitor your pet and let your veterinarian know of these behavioral changes.

Cats and Pain

It can be more difficult to spot pain in cats than dogs because cats are notorious for hiding their pain. It’s believed that this behavior is evolutionary; a visibly sick or injured cat is much more of a target to predators and other members of the group. In order to not appear weak, cats learned to mask discomfort.

Common Cat Pain Symptoms

Determining whether a cat is in pain can be difficult, so it’s important to watch for changes in behavior.  Obvious signs include hiding, withdrawing from human interaction, loss of appetite, and anxiety. An article by Genelle Weule from ABC Science outlines how veterinarians can use a tool called the Feline Grimace Scale (FGS) to assess pain in cats. Using distinctions in features such as the eyes, ears, and whiskers, veterinarians can determine differing levels of pain in cats, and this scale can also be helpful for cat parents. However, there are drawbacks to the scale. If a cat is on medication or has undergone surgery, the distinctive facial features of the FGS are less likely to indicate pain.

Pay Close Attention

Since our pets are unable to communicate any pain or discomfort they may be feeling, it’s our job as pet parents to observe their behavior closely and convey these changes to their veterinarian. The more specific you can describe your dog or cat’s demeanor changes, the more likely your veterinarian will be able to home in on the issue or make more informed recommendations to help your pet get better.

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