Pain Awareness

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Being a pet owner is an emotional ride. Our animal friends can bring us daily joy. But there are those times when our hearts ache for them – like the realization they are in obvious pain.

September is Animal Pain Awareness Month. It’s the perfect time to remind ourselves as caring pet owners of the important signs that indicate our beloved companions are suffering. What’s different in their behaviour? And most importantly, what are the subsequent steps to get them back on track?

Signs Your Pet is in Pain

Animals are brave. They won’t always be so obvious when something is wrong with their bodies. The source of the pain could be one of many things: bone/joint damage, a soft tissue injury, back problems, a dental problem, infection, upset stomach, and possibly something very serious, like cancer. 

It’s a good bet that they are experiencing pain if you notice any of the following signs suggested by Veterinary Practice News Canada:

  • A decrease in appetite and water intake, especially in those pets who love their food
  • Changes in potty habits, both urination and bowel movements
  • Slowing down their activity levels
  • Changes to grooming, like obsessively licking an area that might hurt or avoiding grooming because the movement causes pain
  • Heavier or laboured breathing
  • Changes to routine, including different rest areas or different sleep patterns

What’s next?

It’s become apparent something is wrong with your pet. So what to do?

Step 1 is clear – make an appointment with your veterinarian. (And if it’s acute trauma, immediately go to an emergency clinic.) Your vet knows that animal well and will get to the source of the pain, be it through an exam, x-rays, blood tests, or ultrasounds. You will soon find out the best course of action. That could be medicinal treatment, supplemental, surgical, or rehabilitative, in addition to what you can at home to improve your animal’s situation.

It’s important to communicate to the vet exactly what you have seen to suggest the animal is in pain. Ask questions and advocate for your animal.

In the short term, while waiting for your appointment, it’s a good idea to limit activities with your pet to help manage the pain. You can also consider some easy changes at home, like utilizing a ramp or steps if mobility is an issue, or simply tweaking the height of their food and water dishes to increase comfort.

And please remember, keep a log of what you see. Notes are great but cell phone pics and videos can provide important visuals for your vet.

Osteoarthritis Watch

Osteoarthritis can be a common issue in dogs. Bring your dog to the vet if you notice any of the following signs, courtesy of Zoetis, a pet care company specializing in products for our canine friends:

  • Limping after exercise
  • Lagging behind on walks
  • Slow to get up
  • Difficulty jumping
  • Stiffness 
  • Difficulty with stairs


Click here to get a Zoetis checklist of potential osteoarthritis symptoms for your dog. You can create a report and then print a copy or email it directly to your vet!

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