Tell Me Where It Hurts: 5 Signs Your Pet May Be in Pain 

Tell Me Where It Hurts: 5 Signs Your Pet May Be in Pain 

Our four-legged companions are great communicators. With just a look or a subtle drool, they are able to let us know exactly what they want especially when it is meal or snack time. However, for all of our pets’ amazing forms of communication, they cannot always tell us where and when they hurt. Many pets, especially cats, are skilled at masking signs of pain or discomfort which makes it challenging to know when they are suffering. Our Animal Emergency Care team has five common signs that could be a clue your pet is experiencing pain. 

#1: Behavior changes in your pet  

Like people, pets have unique personalities that make them special. Many also have distinct behaviors such as barking at the mailman or whining when a pesky squirrel runs through the yard. However, if your dog starts to ignore the mail truck or delivery person or your grumpy cat has suddenly become a purring cuddle companion, it may be an indication they are in pain. Sudden behavior changes may be a clue they are experiencing discomfort. Pets are creatures of habit, and subtle changes are often the first clue something is wrong. Bring your pet in for a veterinary examination if you notice the following behavior changes:

  • Growling, hissing, or biting in a usually calm or docile pet
  • Calm, quiet behavior in a pet who is usually aggressive or unfriendly 
  • Unusual vocalization including howling, whining, whimpering, or yelping 
  • Excessive hiding
  • Avoiding being touched, held, or picked up 
  • Seeking more affection than usual or exhibiting needy behavior 

#2: Activity level changes in your pet

Many pet owners can set a timer based on their pet’s playtime, walking, and park visit schedules. Naptime is also an important activity for many pets, especially cats. Changes in your pet’s desire to play or reluctance to get up after a long nap may be an indication they are in pain. Joint diseases such as arthritis can make it difficult for pets to climb stairs or chase after their favorite toy. Other activity changes that may indicate your pet is in pain include: 

  • Trembling or excessive circling before attempting to lie down
  • Difficulty getting up or lying down
  • Reluctance to move, run, or play
  • Restlessness  

#3: Daily habit changes in your pet 

Most pets eat the same amount of food and snacks every day and drink a consistent amount of water. That could change with warmer weather or if their activity level increases. However, if there have been no recent changes in your pet’s planned activities or environment, then habit changes such as eating one cup of food when they normally eat two cups daily could be a clue they are in pain. A pet’s decreased or absent appetite may be an indication of an underlying medical problem such as gastrointestinal distress or a stomachache. Dental disease also can cause a hungry pet to reduce their food or water intake because of painful, infected teeth. Other habit changes that may indicate pain include:

  • Inappropriate urination in the house or increased litter box visits
  • Changes in sleeping habits such as sleeping during times when they are usually active
  • Decreased desire to socialize with household members
  • Ignoring treats or meal times 
  • Dropping food from the mouth while eating

#4: Grooming changes in your pet  

Your pet’s shiny coat, healthy fur, and clear skin are good indicators of their overall health and wellness. Pets, especially cats, regularly groom themselves to keep clean and distribute their natural skin oils. However, excessive grooming that leads to self-mutilation or injury is an indication they may be experiencing pain. Pets who excessively lick, bite, or scratch their skin may have a painful skin infection or an injury.  Bring your pet in for a veterinary examination if you notice changes in their grooming habits.

#5: Facial expression changes in your pet  

Your dog’s wagging tail and slobbery tongue are some of the many ways they show their love and affection. In some cases, it may seem that your dog is smiling when they see you approach the cookie jar for a much-deserved treat. Pets, like people, use their faces to communicate, and subtle changes in facial expression such as a grimace or closed-mouth smile may indicate they are nauseous or in pain. Decoding your cat’s facial expressions is often challenging because most cats have mastered the ability to hide signs of pain. Fortunately, the feline grimace scale is available to help pet owners interpret their cat’s expressions. Expressions that may indicate pain include:

  • Glazed or sleeping eyes
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Flattened ears
  • Appearing to stare off into space
  • Excessive panting when at rest 

Call your family veterinarian if you suspect your pet is experiencing pain. If your pet is showing signs of pain after hours, call Animal Emergency Care. #AECprevents