As our pets age, the chance of them experiencing age-related health issues like obesity and osteoarthritis increases, which can lead to chronic pain. As a survival tactic, dogs and cats instinctively hide pain making it difficult for owners to recognize that a problem exists. With greater emphasis on understanding pain in animals, veterinary professionals are able to better assess the level of pain a pet is experiencingand offer a variety of treatment options.
Causes of pain in pets:
- Obesity which causes joint damage and chronic inflammation
- Osteoarthritis – a degenerative disease of the joints
- Disease processes such as diabetes, dental disease, heart disease or cancer
A yelp or limpingis an obvious signyour pet is experiencing pain, but since animals are good at hiding problems, you should be aware of the more subtle symptoms.
Signs your dog may be experiencing pain:
- Reluctance to climb stairs and decreasedlevel of activity
- Decreased appetite
- Change in behavior or personality
- Limited mobility/stiffness—struggling to lay down and get up
- Whimpering or vocalizing
- Increased licking of a particular spot
- Unexpected reaction when touched
Signs your cat may be experiencing pain:
- Lack of grooming or increased grooming in a particular area
- Changes, even subtle, in daily behaviors or activities including eating and showing aggression
- Reluctance to climb stairs and decreased level of activity
- Restlessness or inability to get comfortable
- Eliminating outside of the litter box
- Resisting touch or being picked up
The good news is a better understanding of pain in animals and a focus in wellness care has led to improved assessments and pain management options. For instance, problems related to obesity can be addressed with nutritional counseling and increased activity.
Veterinarians at Doylestown Veterinary Hospital now offer pain assessments especially for pets at a greater risk for pain due to obesity or advanced age.
“Often we attribute changes in behaviors simply to aging but it’s the disease processes that come with aging which cause pain. For example, 90% of cats over the age of 10 have evidence of osteoarthritis. The resulting pain is something we can treat. ” said Dr. Christina Moore.
“Asking clients about changes in their pet’s appetite and enthusiasm or energy level is a good start. From there we do a thorough exam including watching the animal walk to evaluate for hip or joint pain, then we feel down the spine and gently move their neck and joints while monitoring their reactions during the entire examination. The medical team is trained to identify the subtle changes which pet owners may not notice immediately” added Dr. Moore.
Pain management options include:
- Pharmaceuticals including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, opioids and corticosteroids
- Nutritional counseling for weight loss and increased activity
- Nutraceuticals, a combination of nutrition and pharmaceutical, including omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine/chondroitin
- Acupuncture has gained acceptance with noticeable results. Dr. Ashlea Erk is a certified veterinary acupuncturist on staff at Doylestown Veterinary Hospital. She hastreatednumerous pets with owners reporting positive changes after a couple sessions.
If you notice any of the signs of pain in your pet or have questions about possible changes in behavior, you should schedule an exam and consultation with your veterinarian. Our pets no longer have to suffer in silence when there are treatment options that can provide lasting relief and a better quality of life. Call Doylestown Veterinary Hospital at 215-345-6000 to make an appointment.