Pets in pain are different to humans in pain. While we vocalise our pain, they go to the other extreme, hiding their pain to protect themselves from predators.

However, rehabilitation and pain management specialist Dr Janice Huntingford says knowing what to look for can help you identify a pet in pain.

Pets in pain: what to look out for

Dogs won’t always express pain by whining, and cats — they’re masters at hiding pain. If you don’t pay attention to the little clues that indicate your pet is hurting, you may miss when your pet needs your help.

The sad dog

Don’t think that a dog whining or crying is the only indicator that a dog might be in pain. In fact, dogs will rarely whine or cry unless they are in severe pain. So, look for these other signs to recognise when your dog may be experiencing pain:

  • a decrease in appetite
  • trembling
  • has a sad or tense ‘look’ on his face, like he is in pain
  • not using a leg
  • avoiding stairs or his usual sofa to sleep on
  • not greeting as usual
  • crouching
  • taking a long time to urinate or defecate
  • excessive panting

The obscure cat

Cats are good at hiding their pain. So, if you notice your cat acting grumpy, flattening his ears back, really crouching up his body position, or — especially — hiding, it may be a good indication that your pet is experiencing pain.

Here are some other indicators:

  • not being able to jump on a bed or counter
  • having issues with the litter box
  • not grooming or wanting to be groomed
  • a decreased appetite
  • aggressive behaviour when touched

Pets in pain: what can I do?

If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms, it is essential to get your pet to the vet. Never, ever self-medicate unless directed by your vet, and never use human medication unless approved by your vet. A pet expressing pain is usually a sign that something is seriously wrong and only a thorough vet examination will be able to pinpoint what it is. Many pet owners ascribe limping or a pet’s sudden reluctance to jump as simply ‘old age’ but your pet can be helped so don’t let him suffer; ask your vet for help.

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