How to know when your pet’s in pain

Pain is something none of us want our pets to suffer but knowing when they’re feeling it can be difficult because they don’t respond the same way as humans. Our pets can’t tell us when they’re hurting but rehabilitation and pain management specialist Dr Janice Huntingford says pets do offer clues about how they’re feeling if we know what to look for.

In an evolutionary environment cats and dogs must become masters at hiding pain from their enemies as pain indicates weakness so your pet’s pain won’t be immediately obvious. It’s the little clues that count.

Cats in pain

A cat that suddenly hides away is often a cat in pain. Or if he flattens his ears or crouches his body.
Also look out for his not being able to jump on the bed or on a counter top the way he usually does. Does he or she suddenly have issues with the litter tray? Has your cat stopped grooming or is she refusing to be groomed? Sometimes they may stop eating too. Another surefire indicator is aggressive behaviour when touched.

Dogs in pain

You needn’t wait for a dog to whine or cry to know that he or she is in pain. In fact, dogs rarely cry out unless they are in severe pain. Look out for these clues:

  • a decrease in appetite
  • trembling
  • a sad or ‘tense’ look on his face
  • not using a leg
  • avoiding stairs
  • not greeting you as usual
  • crouching
  • taking a long time to urinate or defecate
  • panting excessively

If your pet is showing any of these symptoms, speak to your vet. There are a host of medications that can be prescribed, as well as gentle exercises and physiotherapy that could help. These signs could also be  indicators of more serious diseases that need long-term treatment.