September is Animal Pain Awareness Month, which means it’s a great time to learn more about how our pets communicate their pain to us. Unfortunately, our pets can’t tell us they’re not feeling well in as many words, so it’s important to be able to identify the signs your pet may be giving you:
- Decreased activity – is your pet no longer excited to do the activities they have always enjoyed? People sometimes incorrectly chalk this behavior up to their pet just getting older, but it can actually be indicative of osteoarthritis. Reluctance to jump onto surfaces/into cars or go on walks; stiffness and/or difficulty standing up after lying down for long periods of time; and difficulty going up and down stairs are some common cases of this.
- Decreased appetite/weight loss – this can certainly be a sign of pain, particularly mouth pain. Always get your pet’s teeth checked by a veterinarian at their yearly exam – and yes, that includes small animals like rodents and ferrets too!
- Changes in temperament – even usually mild-mannered pets can become hostile when they are painful and may growl or hiss. On the other hand, your pet may become unusually clingy or submissive, or even hide from you.
- Changes in urinary or defecation habits – is your house-trained pet having accidents inside the house, taking longer than normal to go, or having abnormal posture when going?
It is a common misconception that pets will always whine or cry to communicate that they are hurting, when in fact it is often quite the opposite. If you’re not keeping an eye out for these signs, it can be easy to miss that your pet is painful. Small “prey” pets (such as rodents) in particular will try to hide the fact that they are painful out of self-preservation.
If you are seeing signs of pain in your pet, it is very important to address it with your veterinarian as soon as possible. With proper pain management, your pet can get back to living a happy, healthy life!