September is Animal Pain Awareness month. Animals can suffer from pain just like we do. But they can't tell us about their pain. So, it is up to their pet parents to observe that something may be wrong and get them to a veterinarian so we can assess them and find out what is wrong. That's why animal pain awareness is so important. Every pet parent should know how to recognize the signs of pain in their pet and how they can help them.
Recognizing When a Pet is in Pain
Even though our pets cannot tell us when they are in pain, there are signs you can look for that indicate your pet is experiencing some distress. There are signs common with any pet, such as:
- Decrease or loss of appetite
- Being off by themselves -- not joining the family
- Lameness (limping)
- Crying or whining
- Excessive licking or scratching
Then there are more specific signs of pain depending on the type of animal. For example,
- Tight or twitching muscles
- Shaking or trembling
- Arched back
- Holding their head below their shoulders
- Vocalization, e.g., frequent unpleasant or urgent sounding meowing, groaning, hissing, growling.
- Decreased grooming or increased grooming but to a particular area (potentially leading to bald patches and sore skin).
- Panting is not usual for a cat. If your cat is panting, it can indicate extreme fear, pain, or difficulty breathing.
- Aggression when you touch them in some regions of their body.
Pain Management for Pet Pain
Once we have assessed your pet and found the root cause of their pain, we begin treatment. Part of the treatment includes managing their pain. The pain could stem from a disease, an injury, or be age-related such as arthritis or recent surgery. In either case, it is essential to understand why pain management is vital. Of course, our pets are part of the family, so we do not want to see them suffer. But there are also physiological benefits to treating and managing pain in pets. When we do not control their pain, they can experience an increase in the production of stress hormones, such as cortisol. This increase in hormones can cause:
- Increased blood pressure
- Slower wound healing
- Increased length of hospital stay (after surgery)
- A decrease in gastrointestinal motility
When possible, we try to manage a pet's pain without drugs. However, there are instances when we need to administer pain medication for the pet to heal from whatever it is experiencing. For example, a pet needs to be kept calm and comfortable after an injury or surgery so its body can heal quickly.
At Advanced Pet Care, we provide comprehensive care for pets, including alternative therapies such as chiropractic, laser therapy, and physical therapy.
Chiropractic for Pets
Chiropractic care focuses on the musculoskeletal system -- a network of bones, muscles, and connective tissues that create form and facilitate movement. By realigning the musculoskeletal system, veterinarian chiropractors have found that it is possible to improve a pet's mobility, reduce their pain and enhance their overall health and wellbeing, as well as the quality of their life. I am a certified Veterinary Chiropractitioner as well as a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist.
You can read more about pet chiropractic at PetMD.
Laser treatment can be used with or in place of medication to manage pain, inflammation, and wound healing. It helps tissue repair by causing the following:
- Endorphin release
- Increases blood flow to bring in oxygen and cells involved in the healing process
- Muscle relaxation
- Decreased inflammation
- Faster healing and repair
The main clinical benefits of laser use in pets include decreased inflammation, decreased pain, and improved wound healing.
We do not need to sedate or restrain your pet for laser therapy, and the experience is usually pleasant and comforting to pets. Each treatment lasts around 1-4 minutes, but the length and frequency of treatments vary with your pet's condition.
Rehabilitation Services for Dogs
At Advanced Pet Care, we have a special space for rehabilitation services for dogs.
In this space, we provide:
- Comprehensive musculoskeletal exams
- Underwater Treadmill
- Massage Therapy
- Therapeutic exercises
Animals are sensitive creatures and feel pain even when they do not show it. The more observant you are, the better your chance of catching some change in your pet which could indicate it is experiencing pain. If you have any concerns about your pet being in pain, contact us so we can set up an appointment and get them assessed by one of our vets as soon as possible.
Dr. Tammy Stevenson