How to Recognize Pain in Your Pet?

By September 9, 2015 December 11th, 2015 Cats, Dogs, Preventative Health, seniors, wellness


“Because their pain is our pain”

Pain comes in many forms: Surgical, arthritis, hip dysplasia, just to name a few. Acute pain is obvious and distressing, while chronic pain can be subtle and associated with “getting old” or “slowing down.” There are many options to treat your pet’s pain and make their day to day living much more comfortable.  If you are unsure if your pet is in pain, you can always call or schedule an appointment with your local Whitby veterinary clinic to discuss your pet’s pain levels.

How to recognize pain?

Both dogs and cats are very good at hiding their pain. This is an instinct that goes way back in prey animals to avoid seeming weak. The following are some subtle signs you watch out for with your pet.

Recognizing pain in your dog:

  • Decreased social interaction
  • Lying down or getting up may become a difficult task
  • Anxious expression
  • Refusal to move
  • Reluctance to go up/down stairs or up and down off beds and couches.
  • Whimpering or howling
  • Aggression/biting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Self-mutilation (licking or chewing on limbs)
  • Changes in posture
normal stance dog

Normal stance. The front legs are directly under the shoulders.

abnormal stance dog

Hip dysplasia stance. The front legs are back under the chest to take some of the weight off the hind legs.




Image credit:



Recognizing pain in your cat:

  • Reduced activity
  • Hiding
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of curiosity
  • Lack of agility/jumping
  • Excessive grooming
  • Stops grooming/ matted fur
  • Changes in urinary/ defecation habits
  • Weight loss


Common painful conditions in cats and dogs include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Luxating patellas
  • Cruciate ligament tear or partial tear
  • Degenerative spinal joint disease
  • Dental pain
  • Glaucoma
  • Cancer

*It is important to have your veterinarian assess your pet and find the source of pain to properly manage it.

Treatment options:

Treating your pet’s chronic pain is generally known as “palliative treatment”, this means our goal is not to cure the condition but to slow the progression of the disease, and provide comfort to the animal which will ultimately increase their quality of life. Call your Whitby veterinarian to have your pet examined and decide on the best treatment protocol for their condition.

Pain is usually managed with a multimodal approach, meaning a combination of therapies are used to reduce pain. This approach allows us to do the following:

  • Reduce the dosage of medication (ie less side effects)
  • Target different types of pain (ie nerve pain vs. inflammation)
  • Preventing muscle loss and increase range of motion in those limbs that your pet may not be using to their full extent.
  • Optimize your chance of succesfully providing pain relief.

Some of the treatment options could include:

  • NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) e.g Metacam, Previcox, Deramaxx
  • Nerve pain medications – e.g Gabapentin
  • Narcotics – e.g Tramadol, Codeine, Buprenorphine
  • Weight reduction (if applicable)
  • Diet changes – Joint supportive diets (Hill’s J/D or mobility support)
  • Glucosamine products – UBAVET, Sasha’s blend, Glycoflex
  • Cartrophen injections
  • Omega supplements
  • Physiotherapy (massage, passive and active exercises)
  • Acupuncture or chiropractor therapy
  • Laser therapy
  • Surgery


For more information on pain management in your pet, please visit :

If you think your pet may be in pain, please call us, the Thickson Road Pet Hospital, your local Whitby veterinary clinic, to schedule an examination with the veterinarian.




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