We never want to see our pets uncomfortable or in pain. And in many instances, when they are in pain, they will mask it and you won’t know they need help. The common belief is that it’s instinct – an animal in pain is weak, is vulnerable to attack, and won’t survive long in the wild. To better the odds of survival, the animal hides its pain.
So, knowing that animals tend to hide pain is a good first step toward ensuring that you get your pet the help he/she needs quickly when needed. The next is knowing your pet well. You observe and interact with your pets every day, so you will be the first to notice when something is amiss.
Here are some signs to watch for:
I know my cat’s behaviors pretty well. I know how they act on a day-to-day basis, what they tend to do during the day and night. If my usually active cat who likes to sprint across the room once in a while for no reason stops that behavior, seems lethargic or quiet, or sleeps even more than usual, that would raise red flags for me.
If my very affectionate cat who loves to snuggle starts to prefer being alone or even avoids contact, that would definitely mean something is wrong.
Hurt animals will sometimes tell you through vocalizations such as squealing, hissing, screaming, etc.
If you notice that your usually soft and fluffy cat looks ruffled and greasy, that might be a sign that he/she has stopped grooming his/herself. Animals that don’t feel well will stop grooming.
Weight Gain or Loss
Pay attention to your pet’s weight. Pain can cause your pet to eat less and lose weight. Or, pain may slow your pet down and it will get less exercise, leading to weight gain. Too much gain or loss signals a problem.
Difficulty Eating/Bad Breath
If your pet has trouble chewing food and/or has bad breath, you should get his/her teeth checked. Animals have the same problems as we do when it comes to teeth. They have plaque and tartar, and can develop cavities and gum disease. Most pet owners probably don’t brush their pet’s teeth regularly, so the likelihood of dental problems is increased.
Having Potty Accidents
Although at times a stray poop may be a behavioral issue (like the time my friend’s cat pooped on her comforter because she hated her new cat litter), sometimes it’s a physical problem. Another friend had an older cat and as the cat began to have problems moving around, she started to go here and there on the bedroom floor.
She just couldn’t make it to the litter box all the time. A common cause of accidents is urinary tract infection.
Limping, Scratching, Biting
If you notice your pet limping, that’s a sure sign of pain. If there is excessive scratching or biting of a particular area, that area is probably bothering them.
The best thing you can do for your pets is to get to know them and their habits and behaviors. That way, if you encounter anything out of the ordinary, you’ll be able to react quickly and save your pet from experiencing unnecessary and prolonged pain. If you see any of the signs listed above, you should take your pet to your vet for a check-up. Tell your vet what you’ve observed so they can receive the best care possible.