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Learn to identify and treat pain in your pet.

Identify pain in your pet

Most people assume that they will easily recognize if their pet is in pain. After all, it should be obvious, right? Well, the answer is sometimes. While pain can be apparent in some cases, our pets have evolved to hide their discomfort, making it challenging to identify. Let’s explore the signs of pain in pets and discuss treatment options to ensure your furry companions receive the care they need.

Remember that for the purpose of this article, the pain we are talking about is chronic pain, not acute pain. Acute pain would be pain from an injury while chronic pain would be more like that from osteoarthritis for example.

Signs of pain in pets

Recognizing pain in your pet requires careful observation. Here are some common signs that may indicate your pet is experiencing discomfort:

  1. Decreased Activity: If your pet is less active or seems to be shying away from normal activities or behaviors, it could be a sign of pain.
  2. Difficulty with Movements: If your pet shows reluctance or difficulty going up or down stairs, it may be an indication of conditions like osteoarthritis or back pain. This is especially applicable to cats who struggle to jump onto surfaces they used to access with ease.
  3. Trouble Standing or Lying Down: Pets experiencing pain, particularly due to osteoarthritis, may have difficulty standing up or lying down comfortably.
  4. Over Grooming or Licking: Chronic grooming or excessive licking of a specific area can be a sign of referred pain. Your pet may be trying to alleviate discomfort in that particular region.
  5. Decreased Appetite: A decreased appetite in your pet can be a potential indicator of oral pain.

Treatment for pain

Thankfully, advancements in pain management for animals have significantly improved over the years. When it comes to medicating your pet, it’s crucial to follow certain guidelines:

  • No Human Medications: Under no circumstances should you administer human medications, such as Tylenol or Advil, to your pets unless explicitly directed by your veterinarian. These medications can cause severe liver and kidney damage.
  • NSAIDs for Dogs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) made specifically for dogs, such as Rimadyl and Galliprant, can effectively treat pain and inflammation in canines. If your dog takes Rimadyl, be sure to check out the rewards program offered by Zoetis. Find more info here.
  • Feline-Specific Pain Medication: Cats cannot take NSAIDs like dogs. Instead, they have feline-specific pain medications used after surgeries or dental extractions. These medications are not used chronically however.
  • A new medication we have been using for cats is Solensia. Solensia is a monoclonal antibody drug that is given monthly by injection. Solensia works differently by preventing pain signals from reaching the brain, resulting in reduced or eliminated pain for cats. This drug is meant to be used as a chronic treatment for pain in cats.
  • If you like the idea of a monoclonal antibody drug to treat pain in dogs, keep your eye out! Librela has cleared FDA approval and should be available for dogs to treat osteoarthritis (OA) pain very soon. This drug would mean that dogs who cannot take NSAIDS will now have a good option for the treatment of OA pain.

Monitoring the medication

Proper monitoring is essential when treating your pet’s pain. For dogs receiving chronic NSAID treatment, regular drug-monitoring lab work is necessary to ensure their well-being. Blood work, assessing red and white blood cell count and major organ function, should be performed 2-4 weeks after starting the medication, and subsequently every 3-6 months.

Solensia for cats does not require drug-monitoring lab work, given its different mode of action compared to NSAIDs.

Takeaways on pain in our pets

If you notice subtle changes in your pet’s behavior, especially as they age, it’s crucial to consult your veterinarian. Your vet can conduct a thorough examination and, together with you, formulate a treatment plan for managing your pet’s pain. By addressing pain promptly, you can ensure your beloved companion leads a long and happy life.

Remember, understanding the signs of pain in pets and taking appropriate action is an essential part of caring for our furry family members.