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PetTips: Watch for clues that your pet is in pain

Dr. Kathy Kallay

Dr. Kathy Kallay

It surprises me how often someone has a pet that is limping, and yet the owner doesn’t think the animal is in pain.

I have to explain to the owner that the animal would not be limping if there were no pain. It is a mistake to think that all pets in pain vocalize in some way. In fact, the opposite is true.

Evolutionary pressures have caused dogs and cats to do their best to hide their pain. Obvious signs of pain make them an easy target for the next meal for some other animal. So their signs are more subtle, and it is a pet owner’s responsibility to recognize them.

Pain can manifest as an animal being more withdrawn, having a decreased appetite, or abstaining from activities it used to participate in. In the animal world something as obvious as a limp is like a big red flag!

And conditions that are painful for us are definitely painful for pets. Eye problems, ear infections, dental problems, urinary tract infections and others can cause significant discomfort.

I always feel bad when I see someone has a pet with an ear problem and they’ve scheduled the appointment for five days later. If a person had an ear ache, he wouldn’t wait five days to get help!

So don’t wait for your pets to show obvious signs of pain, but rather watch for subtle changes in their behavior such as how much they interact with other pets and people, activity level, appetite, or being withdrawn or hiding.

And whenever in doubt, please consult with your veterinarian. Pain management techniques have come a long way, and there is a lot we can do now to make your pet more comfortable.

–Dr. Kathy Kallay operates Four Paws Animal Hospital and Wellness Center in Spotsylvania County.

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  • J. C. Smith

    Seems like common sense to me. If you love your pets, you don’t want to see them in pain. Clearly some need to get this message.