Could your pet be experiencing pain? Here are seven medical conditions that could be causing pain in your furry friend.
1: Degenerative joint disease
Otherwise known as arthritis, degenerative joint disease can strike dogs and cats of any age. Congenital problems, such as hip dysplasia, can predispose pets to developing arthritis, as can trauma. Senior pets are also prone to developing painful arthritic changes in their joints as they age. Arthritis is common, affecting 25% of the total dog population and more than 90% of cats over the age of 12 years.
2: Periodontal disease
Periodontal disease occurs when gingivitis and tartar buildup are left unchecked. Severe dental disease is accompanied by inflammation and infection under the gumline. Tooth root abscesses and tooth loss are common side effects, and although your pet may not act as if he is in pain, if periodontal disease is present, you can count on the presence of pain.
Pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas, is associated with a range of clinical signs that vary in severity, often overlapping with signs of acute gastroenteritis, inflammatory bowel disease, gastrointestinal obstruction, peritonitis, or acute renal failure. Abdominal pain occurs in 58% of dogs with pancreatitis and 25% of cats.
4: Bone cancer
Osteosarcoma (OSA), the most common bone tumor, most commonly strikes dogs and cats between the ages of 6 and 8 years, although a small group of dogs has been recognized who can develop OSA at ages 18 to 24 months. OSA is incredibly painful, and amputation of the affected limb to alleviate the severe pain associated with this neoplasia is the most common treatment.
Dogs and cats can develop bladder infections, also known as cystitis. Cats are prone to feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC), a painful, cyclic inflammation of the bladder that results in bloody urine and inappropriate elimination. FIC is not caused by an infection, and cannot be resolved with antibiotics.
6: Intervertebral disk disease
Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) describes herniation or protrusion of intervertebral disk material into the spinal canal. Compression of the spinal cord results in pain and possible paralysis.
7: Ear infections
Dogs and cats tend to get ear infections in their external ear canal, as opposed to humans, whose ear infections affect the part of the ear located behind the eardrum. Akin to human swimmer’s ear, canine and feline ear infections are caused by fungal and/or bacterial overgrowths, and patients presenting with ear infections are significantly uncomfortable.
How to recognize pain in your pets
Obviously, you can tell your pet is in pain if he limps, will not bear weight on a limb, or cries out when bearing weight. However, pets are masters at hiding pain and illness. From an evolutionary standpoint, they mask their pain so they do not appear weak and become the first to be picked off by a predator.
Because your pet will be trying to hide his pain or illness, you must closely watch his demeanor. According to the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management, the subtle, less-recognized signs of pain in dogs include:
- Decreased interaction with family and housemates
- Anxious facial expression, with or without panting
- Submissive behavior
- Reluctance or refusal to move
- Whimpering and whining
- Aggression, including biting
- Decreased appetite
- Self-mutilation from chewing on painful areas
- Changes in sitting or standing posture
Subtle signs of pain in cats include:
- Reduced activity
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of curiosity
- Changes in elimination habits, such as going outside the litter box
- Hissing or spitting
- Lack of agility
- Decreased jumping
- Excessive licking and grooming
- No longer grooming, with matted fur
- Stiff posture or gait
- Tail flicking
- Weight loss
Pain management options
If infection is causing your pet’s pain, antibiotics or antifungals will be in order, and the pain should dissipate once the infection is cleared. For chronic pain conditions, such as arthritis or FIC, long-term medications should be considered. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and opioids have been used successfully, as have alternative treatment modalities, such as laser therapy, acupuncture, and massage.
If you suspect your pet is in pain, don’t wait around for obvious signs before seeking veterinary care. Give us a call so we can examine your four-legged family member and develop a treatment plan that is best for you and your pet.