Pets are incredible at many things. They comfort our sorrows, make us laugh, are strongly loyal—and they are extremely clever at masking signs of illness or pain. Unfortunately, that last skill can cause your furry pal unnecessary suffering, because they give only subtle, if any, clues of pain that can be challenging to detect. Cats are more talented than dogs when it comes to masking pain, but by learning the common indicators, you can quickly and easily detect the frequently missed painful signs.

Pain indicators in pets

Since pets can hide pain for days, weeks, and sometimes months before their owners see that something is obviously amiss, it’s up to you to learn to recognize their subtle cues. Common pain indicators in pets include:

  • Limping or lameness
  • Stiffness when rising
  • Difficulty sitting, laying down, or jumping
  • Whining, whimpering, crying, or yelping
  • Reluctance to participate in normal activities
  • Avoiding stairs and jumping on furniture
  • Decreased appetite
  • Excessive panting
  • Restless behavior, or unable to settle and get comfortable
  • Licking or chewing at the affected area, often a joint
  • Inappropriate elimination
  • Poor grooming habits
  • Irritability, especially when touched

Pain may be misconstrued as simple “old-age changes,” but may be associated with common age-related conditions, such as osteoarthritis and other degenerative nerve, muscle, or bone issues, that can be alleviated. 

Pain management options for pets

Although pain in pets may be difficult to detect, we understand this is a common problem, and at Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services, we can implement a comprehensive plan, instead of an arsenal of weapons, to find and combat your furry friend’s discomfort. When your beloved companion is painful, no matter the cause, you want relief—fast. Whether your pet needed an invasive, yet life-saving, surgical procedure, or is suffering from osteoarthritis, we use a variety of methods to help ease their discomfort. Here are five ways your pet’s pain can be managed with veterinary care:

#1: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain medication

Medications designed to reduce inflammation are a common choice to alleviate pain in pets. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are often the first line of defense in quickly getting your pet comfortable again, and many pets can take these medications long-term without serious side effects. However, organ dysfunction may occur with chronic NSAID use, so routine blood work monitoring is vital to ensure your pet is handling the medication well. Opioids may also be used, but are typically given in acute situations, such as post-operative care. Keep in mind that many human NSAID products (e.g., Tylenol, Aleve, and Advil) are not safe for pets, and can cause death, so always get your veterinarian’s advice first.

#2: Laser therapy

Used for years in equine and human sports medicine, laser therapy is becoming more commonplace in companion animal medicine. Unlike the cutting lasers used in surgery, therapeutic lasers are used to stimulate the body’s natural healing mechanisms, and can help reduce pain and inflammation, improve circulation, and speed recovery. Therapeutic lasers are an excellent surgery- and drug-free treatment modality for acute or chronic pain.

#3: Surgical repair

Orthopedic conditions can occasionally create a lifetime of pain, but surgical repair options are available for some of these issues. Dr. Nielsen can repair your pet’s ruptured cranial cruciate ligament, stabilize a luxating patella, or repair a fracture to remedy the source of their pain. Choosing orthopedic surgery for your pet, to repair a bone or joint injury, or genetic defect, can mean a life without pain for your best friend.

#4: Alternative therapies

Multimodal treatment plans that incorporate a variety of traditional and alternative therapies can be most effective for battling pain. Other treatment options for managing pain include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Electroacupuncture
  • Chiropractic care
  • Massage therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy 

While these alternative therapies can be beneficial on their own, they are often more effective when paired with traditional treatments, exercise, and weight management. 

#5: Joint and herbal supplements

Many supplements can successfully soothe aches and pains, and a majority are solely for joint health. The best time to begin using supplements is before you notice a serious problem, since supplements can only preserve the remaining joint cartilage rather than restore damaged cartilage. Always contact your family veterinarian before adding supplements to your pet’s diet, since some may interfere with medications. Supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so ask your veterinarian to guide you on choosing a reputable product that will provide maximum pain relief for your pet.

If your furry pal suddenly develops a limp over the weekend, don’t wait until Monday to see your family veterinarian. Get your best friend pain relief immediately by scheduling an appointment at our emergency hospital.

At Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services, we also provide advanced orthopedic procedures designed to repair painful joint conditions. Speak with your family veterinarian about a referral to our orthopedic department to relieve your pet’s pain. We’re here for you and your cherished companion to ensure they live an active, pain-free life at your side.