Pain in Dogs and Cats

Undiagnosed pain occurs in many of our pets due to their ability to hide signs of pain. When we don’t realize that our pets are in pain they suffer with a poorer quality of life. This is a tragedy because there are so many inexpensive, safe options available today to treat and prevent pain.

The ability to notice pain in animals can be difficult. Our pets cannot talk to us. They have developed an ability to hide pain to prevent predation by other predators. Also, without training in signs of pain, even the most conscientious pet owner may not realize that their pet is painful.

Signs of Pain:

Osteoarthritis is an inflammation and degeneration of the joints that gets worse with age. Some studies indicate that 90% of patients over 10 years of age have evidence of arthritis on X-rays. Early signs of pain include changes in behavior, such as grumpiness or aggressive behavior, “laying around” for long periods. “Sleeping more than he/she used to” can be an early sign of pain. Excessive stiffness, trouble getting up in the morning especially on cold days, and excessive stretching when getting up are subtle signs as well. The patient may be reluctant to jump on or off the bed. Cats may “crawl” down the side of furnishings instead of jumping to the ground.

Back Pain occurs in Senior Patients and with high frequency in certain breeds such as Dachsunds, Corgis, Basset Hounds, Chihuahuas, and other toy breeds. Back pain can be seen in any age dog from Disc Compressions or “slipped disc”. Disc compressions are very painful and can lead to paralysis of the front and hind legs. It is important that back problems are diagnosed with X-rays to determine the best treatment. Signs of back pain include crying in pain for no obvious reason, stiffness when walking, dragging rear legs, walking in a disoriented manner, reluctance to move.

Oral Pain can sometimes be detected by lifting your pet’s lips and pressing gently on teeth or gums. Gum disease occurs in approximately 90 % of Dogs and 80% of cats and causes pain as it progresses. Other causes of pain include Resorptive Lesions in cats (and dogs) which is extremely painful and will often result in a reaction or “chattering” when touching the affected tooth. In addition tooth fractures especially when caught early are painful. Subtle signs of pain may include reluctance to eat or chewing in a strange manner. Simply brushing the teeth with a soft tooth brush is an easy way to help detect mouth pain early.

Abdominal Pain can be seen associated with vomiting and diarrhea. Pancreatic diseases can be quite painful. Also GI Foreign Bodies, or non food items eaten such as strings in cats and toys and clothing items in dogs can be difficult to pass and cause intense abdominal pain. Feeling the abdomen may evoke a response. The abdomen may be very tight on palpation. Kidney infections, urinary stones, and tumors are painful as well. An Ultrasound is helpful at diagnosing these problems.

Pain in young dogs can occur with Genetic Diseases such as Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia in our larger breed dogs. Our small breeds frequently have Patellas that pop out of place causing varying degrees of pain. Unless surgery is done, these conditions will develop into worsening and painful arthritis as they age.

Ear Infections are very painful. Signs include shaking the ears back and forth, scratching ears, head tilt, rubbing ears on ground, crying in pain, red ears when looking in the ear canals.

Excessively bloodshot eyes or squinting can be seen with painful and uncomfortable eye problems.

Diagnosis of Pain:

  • X-rays of joints
  • X-rays of back
  • Dental X-rays
  • Ultrasound of Abdomen
  • Ear Endoscopy and X-rays
  • Eye Testing

Treatment of Pain:

  • Nsaids
  • Gabapentin
  • Tramadol
  • IV Pain Pack
  • Cold Laser Therapy
  • Physical Therapy
  • Massage
  • Accupuncture
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