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Vet Talks: How To Recognize If Your Pet Is In Pain

Vet Talks 4 min read
Checking temperature of dog

When our pets are in pain, we are in pain. It can be incredibly frustrating when you don’t know what is wrong with your pet and you don’t know how to help. Animals can experience pain even if they cannot identify or communicate it the same way people do. Just like in humans, their pain is also an unpleasant experience with sensory and affective elements. Recognizing pain in our pets can be challenging in many cases, however, there are some signs that can help you recognize if your pet is uncomfortable.

Behavioral Changes

When in pain, some pets can show signs like agitation or lack of activity, decreased appetite, lack of grooming, excessive licking of a specific area, changes in posture, growling, groaning, eyes partially closed, pacing and vocalization.

Behavioral changes have been recognized as indicators of pain in animals. Showing indications of the presence, location, and severity of pain. If you pay enough attention to your pet’s normal behavior, chances are you’ll be able to notice minor changes.

When in pain, some pets can show signs like agitation or lack of activity, decreased appetite, lack of grooming, excessive licking of a specific area, changes in the posture, growling, groaning, eyes partially closed, pacing and vocalization. Some can also hide and avoid interactions and may act aggressively when you try to approach them. In cats especially, a protrusion of the third eyelid can occur. These are more obvious signs that something is wrong with the pets, but in most cases, the behavioral changes perceived are far more subtle than those.

Bathroom habits can change, for instance. If a cat is presenting urinary tract problems, for example, they may associate pain with the litter box and can start avoiding it at all costs. When this happens, kittens can start urinating in different places around the house. Many pet owners can see this shift in behavior as misbehavior and don’t consider it as being related to pain, which only aggravates the situation. If you have an indoor cat, it’s easier to recognize this new habit, however, if you have a cat that goes outdoors, chances are you won’t be able to observe this.


Besides urinary tract problems, the same occurs with pets presenting conditions such as osteoarthritis, for instance. Conditions like this make it uncomfortable to pass stool and pets can’t defecate normally unless they can squat. If their joints are stiff and sore, they may struggle to go normally, and this can lead to constipation. Some pet owners might think that there’s something wrong with their food when actually, the root cause can be related to joint discomfort in those cases.

So, as you can see, these behaviors are not specific signs of discomfort, they point only to an underlying problem that needs to be diagnosed. If your pet’s behavior has changed, you should take your little one to the veterinarian. The vet will check aspects like your pet’s history, vital signs, and behavioral changes in order to evaluate the pain.

Vital signs like heart rate, respiratory rate, pupil dilation, and blood pressure may be altered in a pet in pain, however, in many cases, they remain the same as usual. There is no “gold standard” to assess pain in animals but the veterinarian can use pain scales to try to identify it. A pain score is obtained by using a questionnaire that includes information like breed, age, gender, environment and living conditions, cause of pain, body region affected, and the duration and intensity of pain, for instance. An adequate history and physical examination and sometimes further exams are essential to trying to identify the cause of their pain. Evaluating the degree of lameness and sensitivity to manipulation are also important to assess chronic pain. A comprehensive neurologic examination must be included for complete assessment and accurate diagnosis of any chronic pain syndrome. The pet’s response to therapy, such as increased activity after administering pain medication, may provide important diagnostic information regarding the role of discomfort in behavioral changes as well.


NHV Supplements Can Help

NHV Supplements can provide excellent support for pets who are in discomfort.

Yucca: This supplement contains steroidal saponins that stimulate the body to produce its own natural corticosteroids. Yucca extract is a powerful anti-inflammatory with nutritive properties that may help with symptom relief related to inflammation, discomfort, and loss of appetite. It’s also great for supporting arthritic and joint problems.

Turmeric: A member of the ginger family, Turmeric (Curcuma longa) has been used extensively and is known to exhibit rich antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties while helping support a variety of health conditions such as cancer, heart conditions, and arthritis.

Old Timer: Old Timer is an herbal formulation with anti-inflammatory and restorative actions, which can help with nervous system disorders, fatigue, arthritis, and reduces discomfort.

In case you have any questions on how our supplements can help your little one, please do reach out. Our pet experts will be more than happy to assist you! Stay safe and healthy out there!

Dr. Aline Dias DVM

Dr. Aline Dias DVM

Dr. Aline Dias is a veterinary graduate from the Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil. She worked for five years with research in Bacteriology and Virology fields, but she found her true passion in feline medicine. As soon as Dr. Aline immigrated to Canada, she adopted two kittens: Chilli and Keke. Dr. Aline is now a full-time crazy cat lady and when she’s not working at NHV she spends her time spoiling her furbabies or going for walks at the beach.

Published: September 19, 2020

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