November is traditionally a month in which veterinarians and their staff celebrate the senior pets in our practices. Throughout this month, we hope to highlight topics that are important to senior pets, but have applications for everyone who visits us.
One of the most difficult things about being a pet owner or veterinarian is recognizing when our four-legged friends may be in pain. Our veterinary care team works every day to prevent pain in our patients while performing surgical or dental procedures, and use a whole range of modalities to help with pain due to medical problems.
Some of the patients that we care for that are in pain have issues that are easily identified and understood, such as animals with fractures or other traumatic injuries. Other types of pain are much more difficult to assess, most notably in older dogs or cats with arthritis or other joint disease. Some signs that your senior companion may be experiencing pain or discomfort are:
• Abnormal sitting or lying posture
• Circling multiple times before lying down
• Whining, groaning or other vocalizations
• Limping, unable to get up or lie down
• Difficulty getting into car or down stairs
• Lack of grooming
• Won’t wag tail
• Licking or biting area
• Lack of appetite
These symptoms may be very subtle or very extreme, depending on the cause and also on the temperament of your pet. The other difficulty for our doctors is that many of these signs may be seen in cases of medical illness, including those creating abdominal pain and nausea.
Our team’s approach to managing pain will vary depending on the cause of the pain, level of pain perceived, the age of that animal, and any underlying health concerns. Where possible, we will always consider non-medicinal options such as supplements (e.g. omega fatty acids, glucosamine for joints, diet) or therapeutic laser treatments. Many cases of pain in animals do, however, require medication to allow for that animal’s well being and healing.
If you feel that your furry friend might be showing some of the signs above, or if you are seeing other changes in behavior that do not make sense, please give us a call. We are here to help, and dedicated to pain control to increase the quality of life of our patients!