Our pets can’t outright tell us when they are in pain. If your pet is limping or has a visible wound, then it may be obvious - but otherwise it is important to be aware of subtle clues that your pet is in pain.
1. Verbal cues
Vocalization is a typical sign of pain in animals. Your pet may start to whine continuously or respond with sound when a certain painful area is touched. Verbal cues to listen for include whining, whimpering, howling, growling, and yelping. Cats may purr with increased frequency when they are in pain.
2. Changes in facial expression
Changes in facial expression can be subtle and are a good hint that your pet is experiencing pain. Abnormal eye expressions include squinting or glazed vacant stares. Pupils often stay dilated when pets are experiencing pain. Ears may also differentiate from their normal upright position.
3. Altered posture
Cats and dogs in pain can experience discomfort in their normal resting or sitting position. Pets that are in pain tend to hunch or bend over to arch their backs and tuck their abdomen in. Pets in pain may be reluctant to lift their head and therefore appear to have a ‘droopy’ body posture.
4. Behavioural changes
Changes in your pet’s daily habits can be indicative of discomfort or pain. Regular eating or sleeping patterns, and grooming habits may lapse. Pets in pain may begin to act out of character and become withdrawn from social interaction or become snappy at their owners. Caution should be taken if your pet is exhibiting behavioural changes as they could become abnormally aggressive as a self-protection reflex.
5. Decreased activity
Painful conditions can cause pets to become lethargic and reluctant to move. Animals with sore joints may have difficulty getting up from a resting position or performing certain manoeuvres such as climbing stairs due to a limited range of motion.
Cats and dogs can be good at hiding their pain because injuries or ill-health can cause them to feel threatened. If your pet shows any signs of being in pain or simply doesn’t seem themselves, do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian. The sooner the source of your pet’s pain is diagnosed and treated, the quicker your pet can return to being healthy and happy.