Identifying and addressing pet pain

INLAND EMPIRE – When children are in pain, they often verbally express that discomfort to their parents. But pet parents know that no such expressions can be made by the family pet, who may suffer in silence for several days or even weeks until its owners notice a problem. Since pets often can’t express any discomfort or pain they’re feeling only heightens the importance pet owners must place on detecting any abnormal behaviors their pets might exhibit that indicate the animals are in pain.

According the ASPCA, pets do not always show outward signs of pain, even when their suffering is significant. Some pet owners expect their pets to cry or even wail when they are suffering, but oftentimes pets express pain in less obvious ways that only perceptive pet owners might recognize.

Excessive panting or gasping for breath is often indicative that a pet is in pain, and such behavior is typically easy to spot. But pets in pain may also become reclusive, be reluctant to move and even grow more picky regarding their food. Busy pet owners can easily miss such indicators, but it’s important that even the busiest pet owners take time to monitor their pets’ daily behavior to ensure the pet isn’t dealing with pain.

* Look for additional behavioral changes. In addition to the aforementioned behavioral changes, pets may subtly exhibit other signs that they are in pain through their behaviors. A pet may lose both its enthusiasm for activity and its appetite when it’s coping with pain, and a pet with particular grooming habits may no longer be going through those motions.

* Schedule routine checkups for all pets in the household. Because pets don’t always exhibit telltale signs that they are dealing with pain, it’s important that pet owners schedule routine checkups for their pets. The veterinarian can identify when a pet is in pain, even if the warning signs are subtle. Such checkups are important for all pets, even for those pets who appear as active and happy as they always have.

The ASPCA notes that, when one family pet is dealing with pain, it’s not uncommon for other household pets that are otherwise healthy to start exhibiting the same abnormal behaviors as the pet that’s in pain. The healthy pets are reacting to the changes and distress of the sick animal and such reactions can prove unhealthy to the pets who actually have nothing wrong with them. So it’s important for pet owners to emphasize routine checkups for all household pets, including those who seem happy and healthy.

* Understand there are alternatives to euthanasia. Owners of elderly pets in pain may feel as though euthanasia is their only option. No pet owner wants to prolong the suffering of their pet, but in some instances there are alternatives to euthanasia. Pet hospice care is an option for pets suffering from a terminal illness without a cure. Unlike hospice care for humans, pet hospice care is done at home.

A veterinarian will work with the pet owner, teaching him or her how to provide intensive home care that emphasizes making the final days of the animal’s life as comfortable and pain free as possible.

Pet owners considering hospice care should know that it’s a significant commitment of time and resources and it may disrupt daily life. In addition, euthanasia may ultimately prove more humane if the animal continues to suffer significantly during hospice care, and that’s a reality pet owners must prepare themselves for.

Recognizing that a pet is in pain is not always easy. But pet owners who keep a watchful eye and pay particular attention to their pets’ daily behaviors can more easily identify if their animals are in pain and take the appropriate steps to alleviate that pain.

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