Humans complain about a lot of things, all the time. Unfortunately, pets don’t share this ability to say when something is hurting. The best method for detecting pain is by observing behavioral and physical changes. Here are common items to keep an eye out if you think your pet may be in pain.
- Reluctance to walk on slippery surfaces – In general, pets have very smooth pads on the bottom of their feet. Dogs and cats cannot perspire out of their pads like we can from our hands and feet, improving our grip when we need it. Because of these two factors, both cats and dogs rely on flexing their muscles to create a triangular stance to keep from falling. Pets with pain or injury are unable to maintain such a stance and will either fall or avoid those surfaces.
- Placing more weight on front legs – Generally a sign that your pet is having difficulty bearing weight on her back legs and is more common in dogs – your pet will appear to be ‘lurching’ forward while standing. This can be due to a problem in the knee, hip, or lower back. This forward-leaning stance can be hard to determine in subtle cases, even for the trained eye. Pronounced cases can be seen more easily from the side. Instead of the front legs standing straight up and down, they are tucked back under the chest.
- Abnormal Nail Wear Patterns – Abnormal wear on nails can be the sign of either pain or neurological disease. Painful limbs are more difficult for your pet to fully pick up their foot, causing the nails to drag and scuff while walking.
- Eating Less – A decrease in appetite often accompanies pain in pets. When any pet quits eating, though, especially if it is outside the realm of their normal behavioral pattern, pain must be considered as one of many possible causes. Accurately measure your pets food each day by using a standard cup for measure as the decrease will likely develop slowly over time.
- Aggression – If your pet has long term friends, such as other dogs or cats, and no longer plays or tolerates being around them, the change of behavior is often due to a physical issue. It is common for pets to show aggression to other pets well before showing any signs of aggression to their owners.
- Difficulty Laying Down – Does your cat or dog seem to take longer to find the right spot to lay down and rest? They most likely aren’t being picky, as these ‘false starts’ are common with most pets. However, when it begins to take longer and longer for your pet to settle down, it is often a sign that the simple task of laying down is becoming more difficult to complete.
- Front Legs First – Does your pet now attempt to get off the ground by pushing up with their front legs? Most dog and cat breeds begin to stand with their rear legs first and then extending their front legs out. The mechanics of this motion become difficult with age, arthritis, obesity and a number of other common muscle and skeletal issues including hip dysplasia.
If you see your pet exhibiting any of the above items, make a note of it and talk to the professionals at Banning Veterinary Hospital during your next visit or wellness exam.