Have you ever had an injury of some sort? What did it feel like? Did you yell, curse, or cry (or maybe all of the above)? Those are all common ways for people to react to pain. Our nervous system and that of our pets is almost identical in the way it works. Therefore, it is safe to assume that anything that hurts us hurts animals too. The problem is our pets instinctively hide their pain as much as they possibly can. Signs of pain can be obvious (limping, whining,etc.) but are often very subtle. They can also be things we wouldn’t associate with pain at all. One example is the cat that was literally pulling out all of its fur because of dental pain. Another example is a dog that will lick its wrist because of pain elsewhere and develop a lick granuloma.
A common cause of pain in veterinary medicine is surgery. If we cut into an animal for a spay, a neuter, orthopedic surgery, or soft tissue surgery, you can bet it hurts. If we don’t treat that animal’s pain, we have failed as veterinarians. Some of our “exotic” animals, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, are highly susceptible to pain and must be aggressively treated.
A very common misconception we frequently hear is the following: “He’s not whining so he’s not in pain.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you or I were in pain, it’s true; we would be whining or letting someone know about it. Since our pets are programmed to hide their pain from us as much as possible, it is our duty as veterinarians and as pet owners to err on the side of caution when treating pain in animals. If we think that an animal is in pain, then we should treat it.
Another common misconception about pain in animals is limping. “It doesn’t hurt; he just won’t put any weight on it,” or “He’s not in pain, he just won’t walk on it.” We hear these quotes commonly with orthopedic problems. The reason he’s not walking or putting weight on it is because it HURTS! An animal with a broken leg or a torn ACL might not be whining or whimpering, but you can bet it hurts, and probably hurts a lot. An easy way to know if your pet should have pain medicine…if it would hurt you, then it hurts them.
Remember, pets feel pain in the same way people do, but our medications are very different. Many are often toxic to dogs and cats. Don’t use any over the counter pain medications on dogs and cats and contact us if you are concerned your pet is in pain. Visit this link to learn more about surgical pain control, and here to learn more about chronic pain control in pets. And as always, if you have any questions or concerns about your pet being in pain, give us a call, we would love to help!