Veterinarians see this often – by the time an owner may notice that a dog or cat is sick or not feeling well, the animal tends to be very sick.  This is especially common in cats.  Animals are masters at hiding their illnesses so it’s important as a pet owner that you understand how to detect signs of pain or discomfort in your pets. 

In cats, the most common way they show pain, discomfort or sickness is by hiding or spending time in an abnormal place.  Cats that don’t feel well often neglect grooming themselves and lay in a hunched over position.  Most of the time, cats purr because they are happy but sometimes, they purr because they don’t feel well. 

A dog that doesn’t feel well may have behavioral changes such as biting or growling.  If your dog doesn’t normally do this, it is cause for concern.  In addition, some dogs will have changes in their sleeping habits or become restless.  Small changes like these are important to take notice of, don’t ever think that they mean nothing. 

Eating or drinking more or less often than normal may be signs that something is wrong or that your pet is painful.  In addition to pain, these signs may indicate diseases such as diabetes, thyroid problems and kidney disease or other organ dysfunction. Frequent trips to go to the bathroom (asking to go outside or visiting the litter box more than normal) may indicate problems such as painful urinary tract infections. 

There are ways at home to assess your pet’s condition.  Watch how they are moving around and behaving in their normal environment.  If you see limping, guarding, a change in how they move or get up and down off furniture, they may be feeling some pain.  If your pet shows an interest in food but then hesitates to eat, they may be experiencing oral pain. Discharge or blood from the mouth can indicate an infected tooth.  In addition, swelling or sensitivity around the mouth can indicate an oral problem.  Sometimes, animals will drool excessively, paw at their mouth and drop food – these are all signs of a problem with the mouth.   While attempting to determine if you pet is experiencing pain please use caution.  If you are touching your pet in a painful spot, they may scratch or snap at you in an effort to avoid the pain.  Also keep in mind, pain in conjunction with other symptoms may be an indication of a serious problem.  If you think your pet is painful and they develop additional symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea or pale/discolored gums you should schedule a visit to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

We love our animals so much, it’s important to understand how to tell when something is wrong.  There are lots of pain management options available to your pet, both in medical therapy and drug form.  If you are unsure if your pet is painful and or sick please call your veterinarian.  We would rather tell you that it’s no big deal than have you worry!