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How Do I Know If My Pet Is In Pain?

I think about pet pain a lot. My dog, Ginger, is 11 years old now and beginning to turn from a vibrant red to a heavy dose of white fur. And she’s struggled with lameness.

September is Pain Awareness Month for both pets and people. But, unlike those of us training for fall marathons who can articulate where our bodies hurt, pets cannot.


“According to the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC), more than 45 million household pets suffer from chronic or acute pain.”

Signs that you should look for according to International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) include the following list of most common signs of pain:

  • Decreased activity – Take notice if your animal is not playing as much as usual

  • Not going up or down stairs – This could be an early sign of osteoarthritis

  • Reluctance to jump onto surfaces – This especially applies to cats

  • Difficulty standing after laying down – This is a sign of osteoarthritis

  • Decreased appetite – This can signal mouth pain

  • Over grooming or licking a particular area – This can be a sign of referred pain


Fortunately, there are a number of options available to pet parents. Ginger was able to get some physical therapy, massage, and laser treatments. That, combined with some relatively inexpensive medications, have returned her to a level of activity that is satisfying to see.

While her veterinarians were all good doctors, the resources available to do the therapy and laser treatments came as a result of a conversation with a behaviorist trainer. Her bloodwork never identified acute health concerns. It was only after doing a few expensive X-rays that some early spinal issues were spotted.

You may have to investigate resources for your pet if they are showing signs of pain. Fortunately, as the pet care industry has expanded, so have the number of options. Your vet may be able to offer suggestions for quality treatment options if their practice doesn’t provide them.

You are your pet’s best advocate, so keep an eye on them and have any signs of possible chronic pain looked into. You’ll both feel better.


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