Thursday, January 17, 2013

15 Tell-Tale Signs Of Pain

by Dr. Greg Magnusson, DVM
 

Our pets are communicating with us all the time, we just need to know what to listen for.

1. LIMPING
Let’s think about this one for a moment. Say you’re a dog a thousand years ago, and you’re living in the wild somewhere. You know, instinctively, that if you are visibly injured, some giant creature somewhere will probably chase you down and eat you. So you do your best to NEVER. SHOW. PAIN.
Fast-forward to that little furball sitting beside you on the couch. Do you REALLY think your dog understands that if she shows you pain, you’ll do something to fix it? Nope, cats and dogs have no concept of hospitals, and in their long history, showing pain usually gets you beat up or worse. WHICH MEANS… if your cat or dog is VISIBLY limping, they’re in greater pain than their self-preservation instinct to hide pain, can cover up.

2. INVISIBLY LICKING
On the other hand, that same self-preservation instinct also forces your dog to clean their wounds, at least in private. I can’t even tell you how many times a day I hear a dog or cat owner say “but I never see him licking at that spot!” Well no, you won’t. She’s going to pretend everything is fine while you’re watching her, wait until everybody is asleep, or at work, or at least in the next room, then she’s gonna go to town on that spot until it’s healed. Bottom line, if your veterinarian tells you that your pet has been licking at something, believe us.

3. VISIBLY LICKING
The wound is so bad, the itch so constant, that your dog makes it their life’s work to lick it until it goes away. This is what makes allergies so frustrating, because our bizarre human instinct is to tell our dogs to “quit licking yourself!” like they’re doing something wrong, when in reality, they’re doing exactly what they’re programmed to do. Again, since dogs have no concept of medicine, the ONLY TIME you’re allowed to put a pet in an Elizabethan Collar is when your veterinarian has prescribed something that will heal the hurt better than saliva will.

4. FAILING TO JUMP
Remember when she was a kitten, and Fluffy would jump up on the top of your fridge? Notice how she hasn’t done that for the last few years? It’s not because she’s lazy, it’s because she physically can’t. Failing to do the things that she once did is the most common sign of chronic pain in pets.

5. GETTING UP SLOWER
You’re noticing Fido takes a second or two to raise his butt up to standing, when he used to pop up like a spring. That’s because it hurts to stand up quickly. This is a very common sign of hip arthritis in dogs.

6. ABNORMAL POSTURE
You’ve noticed that your dog sits crooked now, with the same leg sticking out all the time. This is because that leg hurts, either from injury or from arthritis.

7. CRYING OUT
The most obvious sign of pain, but notice there’s 12 other things on this list. Just because your dog isn’t screaming every time she moves doesn’t mean she’s free of pain.

8. ROUGH LOOKING HAIR COAT
Cats are meticulously clean animals. When your cat becomes less meticulous, it’s not because she’s lazy, it’s because it hurts to clean herself. This could be from the reduced flexibility associated with arthritis, or pain in the mouth.

9. CHANGE IN PERSONALITY
Dog suddenly snapping at people? Cat pushing vases off shelves? Many abrupt behavioral changes can be explained by physical discomfort.

10. PEEING ON YOUR STUFF
This one is counter-intuitive. If a person pees on something, it’s often a sign of disrespect. If your cat pees on something, it’s because he hurts or he’s scared.

11. RELUCTANCE TO MOVE
 

Here’s the funny thing about dogs. I think most dog brains stop developing when they’re about two years old, and they honestly think they’re two for the rest of their little lives. Which means, if that two year old brain is driving a ten year old body and that body isn’t playing along, it’s not because the dog is lazy, but because the brain can’t make the body do what the brain wants.

12. LOSS OF APPETITE
Dogs and cats are programmed to pack on pounds in case food becomes scarce. When your pet stops eating, it’s not because they’ve suddenly decided to go on a holiday diet, it’s because something inside them is preventing them from preserving themselves. Your pet knows very well not eating will lead to death. They’re trying to eat, they want to eat, they just can’t.

13. PANTING
Dogs and cats pant for one of three reasons – either they’re hot, they’re scared, or they’re hurt.

14. SHIVERING 
Usually just a sign of nerves (or a totally normal little dog that just shivers because it’s little) sometimes shivering can indicate pain.

15. DROOLING
Can mean either abdominal pain and nausea, or mouth pain.

Pretty much any time your pet does something unusual, or differently than in years past, you should connect with your family veterinarian and discuss the change.

Reprinted with permission from Leo's Pet Care, 10598 N College Ave # 200, Indianapolis, IN 46280 | www.leospetcare.com | indianapolisvet@gmail.com

***
Greg Magnusson, DVM describes himself as Leo's daddy. Public educator, mender of wounded bodies, healer of troubled souls, veterinarian in Indianapolis at Leo's Pet Care - out to change the world for one little boy...
Contact Dr. Magnusson via his Leo's Pet Care Facebook Fan Page or @IndianapolisVet on twitter.


Articles by Dr. Magnusson:
What's In The Blood? Blood Testing And Interpretation  
Everything You Never Wanted To Know About Anal Glands
What Causes Bladder Infections in Dogs? 

10 comments

  1. This is a great post, Jana, and something all pet parents need to read. Okay if I put a link to it on my 5 Old Dogs blog? Woofs n wags!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Dee, certainly, like away. To be fair, might want to link to the original on Dr. Magnusson's blog.

      Delete
  2. There is so much great information here! I always worry that my dog will injure herself and I'll never know it because she never seems to show any sign of pain. She behaves with zero sense of self-preservation all the time, flinging herself off cliffs and ramming into trees, and yet never seems the least bit bothered. It worries me she will be hurt and I won't know it. Thanks for putting together a list of things to watch out for.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kristine, glad you find this helpful. Acute injuries often do present themselves one way or another; whether with visible trauma, yelp, limp etc. Often, not always.

      Typically it's the chronic type of situation which is the hardest to notice, as it usually comes on gradually and one gets used to the changes.

      Delete
  3. Thanks for this list. Two of our dogs have arthritis and we know when it's bothering them because Rodrigo licks his elbow and Sydney limps. Supplements have been a great addition to their life.

    I appreciate the list.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for reading! :-) Dr. Mahaney also wrote about tail and head position, those are also great ways to see how the dog is feeling.

      For example, with Jasmine's episodes, her tail is tucked down flat; you can't even see she has one.

      Delete
  4. Fabulous list! Getting ready to share it to my buds! :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very good list, I'm glad that you posted this!

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  6. This is such a great and very useful information you share here. It is really good for the people to knowing sign of pain of dogs. It is good to understand dogs behavior when he/she suffering from pain.

    Florida Yorkie Breeders

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  7. I appreciate this so much, consider it bookmarked. With my own pup and the fosters that come through our care it's important that I can identify when someone needs help. Great post.

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