September means Animal Pain Awareness Month is upon us! This month brings attention to a crucial topic for anyone who loves or has ever loved an animal.
The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) has dedicated the month of September to raising awareness about pain and pain management in pets. September is also (human) Pain Awareness Month, which makes it a perfect time to reflect on the ways pain affects our animal companions and us.
Unfortunately, animals often suffer for more extended periods than we do because they cannot tell us they are hurting. Many animals are also masters at hiding discomfort, a necessary behavior developed through evolution, to protect themselves from predators.
Pets also love to please their people and often muster the energy to get up and play or give affectionate greetings. Unfortunately, this devotion to their human counterparts makes it even more challenging to recognize when they are genuinely suffering.
Even the best pet parents sometimes can’t pick up on subtle, gradual changes in a pet’s behavior, mood, or activity level over time. Many pet parents will chalk subtle behavior changes to aging or older pets just “slowing down.” However, aging is not an illness and should not be painful. In fact, by the time a pet is visibly in pain, particularly if it is due to a chronic condition such as cancer or arthritis, he may have already been in pain for quite some time.
It’s important to keep a close eye on pets activities, eating habits, and personality changes so that you can seek veterinary treatment for possible problems as early as possible. Our pets are counting on us to be their voice.
There are many common changes that may signal your pet needs medical intervention. Here are a few common changes you can look for:
- Decreased play and activity
- Not going up or downstairs
- Weight loss
- Reluctance to jump (especially for cats)
- Difficulty standing after lying down
- Decreased appetite
- Over-grooming or licking a specific area of the bodyGrowling or guarding behavior in dogs
- Hissing or spitting in cats
- Changes in urination or defecation habits
- Lethargy/loss of interest in social interaction
The sooner you recognize changes in your pet, the sooner your veterinarian can assess the situation and determine an effective treatment plan.
There are several ways to manage pain in animals, including physical therapy, medications, acupuncture, and massage. Be sure to speak with your vet frequently to learn about managing pain for your pets.