6 HIDDEN SIGNS THAT YOUR CAT AND DOG ARE IN PAIN
Companion animals are very sensitive beings. They do their best to communicate their thoughts and feelings with us whenever possible. However on occasion, we may miss a signal or two. It’s always a good idea to take note of our animals’ behaviour when they are healthy so that we are able to note any sudden signs of distress; however big or small. Most animals will not cry or whine when they are in pain, in fact many behave asymptomatically. To stay on top of our animal’s physical comfort, we will want to note the following hidden signs and symptoms that an animal may exhibit when in pain.
- HIDING- Should you come home from work or school to find your animal unusually hiding behind or under furniture or even in the corner of a closet, pay attention. Most animals, when in pain will hide. This is because genetically, they are wired to steer clear of predators. When they are injured or in pain, they are vulnerable and easy targets for predators. This is why companion animals will hide when they are not feeling well.
- CONSTANT GROOMING/NOT GROOMING ENOUGH- Animals, particularly cats, are very clean beings. Healthy cats will groom themselves after every meal and several times in between. Dogs, too have their way of self-cleaning. It is vital that we as caregivers of these animals notice when their regular grooming habits change. For example, if you are a cat caregiver, pay close attention to the frequency and location of your cat’s grooming. Should you notice that he is excessively grooming (that is to say, more than post-feeding or drinking), you may have an issue on your hands. Pay specific attention to the location on his body at which he is grooming. Do you notice that he is mostly grooming his belly? His legs? If he is grooming excessively in one specific area of his body, he is more than likely in pain or other discomfort. This does not necessarily mean that the animal is in pain in the specific area that he is grooming. The animal could be I virtually any type of pain and feel compelled to lick a specific area. This type of specific grooming can also be linked to an allergic reaction. Either way, it is vital to pay close attention to the area on the animal’s body where he/she is excessively grooming (licking, biting, etc).
By the same hand, if an animal is not grooming herself at all, this is also a signal from your animal that she might be in pain. When an animal is not grooming, there is a strong likelihood that she is physically unable to groom (muscular pain, organ pain, nausea, etc). Cats and dogs much prefer to be clean whenever possible. They will lick their hair/fur and bite areas in an effort to clean themselves. There is a definite message coming from your animal if she is reluctant to groom/clean herself. It is very important to seek medical attention if you find that your animal is not grooming for more than two days
- NOT EATING OR DRINKING- Much like humans, if animals are in pain or discomfort they will lose their appetite. If this is the case in your home, do not force-feed your animal. If your animal generally loves food and has suddenly stopped eating or drinking for more than 12 hours, be aware that this is a sign that the animal is feeling off. It may be temporary nausea which could pass within a day. Or it could be a symptom of a much deeper issue. If the animal is reluctant to eat for longer than one day, there is a strong possibility that she may be in pain. Whether the pain is preventing her from walking toward her food dish or whether she has hidden bodily trauma, pay very close attention to how she behaves. Especially in the summer time when our animal friends go and play outdoors and are not directly in our eyesight, they may hit their heads or scratch themselves in a painful way that we do not witness. Because we are unable to watch what they are doing every second of every day, we cannot always be sure that they are staying out of trouble. If you have allowed your dog or cat to roam outdoors without watching their every move and subsequently you find that they have no appetite or are disinterested in food and water, this is a clear sign that they may have ingested something that does not agree with them or they have hurt their bodies in some way. Do not avoid the signs. Take your cat or dog to the vet immediately if they suddenly refuse food and water for hours on end. This does not mean that every time your cat or dog misses a meal that you should be concerned. What it does mean is that if your animal has stopped eating seemingly out of the blue, it’s likely a sign of pain.
- NOT ELIMINATING- Often when animals are in pain, they will avoid elimination. Occasionally this is because they are unable to physically get into their litter box or get down the stairs to go outside. Generally, animals will need to eliminate within 45 minutes of eating or drinking. Generally, animals will need to eliminate when they wake up or just after breakfast. If you have been out of bed for an hour and your animal has not gotten up to ‘go’, pay close attention. This behaviour could be because the animal is experiencing muscular pain, digestive trouble, headaches or worse-organ failure. If an animal refuses to eliminate for more than several hours, this is a major concern. There is severe risk of toxic accumulation in the kidneys or bowel and this can be fatal. If an animal has not eliminated in 12 hours and has no pre-existing condition that would explain the behaviour, seek medical attention immediately.
- INABILITY TO SIT STILL- Healthy cats and dogs are able to sit comfortably and rest for hours on end. Usually, their sleep routine is based on ours. They wake when we wake and sleep when we do- often napping in between. If an animal is in pain, they will have difficulty sitting in the same position for a prolonged time. If you notice that your animal is constantly trying to switch sitting or standing positions, they are likely in pain. The pain could be musculoskeletal or organ pain. When in pain, animals will seem restless and impatient. They will be unable to find a comfortable position in which to rest.
- LETHARGY- Most animals who are in pain will not want to play or even get up in the morning. They may seem lazy or tired. However upon closer inspection they may indeed be in too much pain to do any activity at all. If your animal is lethargic it could be for any one of a number of reasons. However, if the lethargy is combined with any of the above symptoms, it bears examination. Healthy animals will not be lethargic. There is always a reason, whether its temperature, diet or pain related. If your animal is lethargic, consider making an appointment with a holistic veterinarian to get to the bottom of it.
There are many hidden signs and symptoms of pain. Not all animals will exhibit their pain in the same way. It is imperative that you do not wait until it’s too late. If you suspect that your animal is in pain, seek immediate veterinary attention. Better to be safe than sorry!
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