Aug 31 2017

Animal Pain Awareness Month

September is Animal Pain Awareness Month, an initiative by the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM). IVAPM is an organization that provides resources to veterinary professionals and pet owners on pain prevention, management, and treatment in animals.

Pain in animals, as in humans, is an indicator that something is wrong. Animals are masters at concealing pain and often pet owners will only notice the pain once it has become severe. As pet owners, we need to be tuned into the subtle changes in our pets’ behavior that suggest an injury or illness that is causing pain. The sooner the injury or illness is treated, the sooner our pets are not experiencing pain, and the risk of more permanent damage from the underlying injury/illness is reduced.
Common signs of pain in dogs and cats:

  • Decreased social interaction
  • Anxious expression
  • Submissive behavior
  • Refusal to move
  • Whimpering
  • Howling
  • Growling
  • Guarding behavior
  • Aggression; biting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Chewing on limbs or paws
  • Changes in posture


  • Reduced activity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Quiet/loss of curiosity
  • Changes in litterbox habits
  • Hiding
  • Hissing or spitting
  • Lack of jumping
  • Excessive licking or grooming
  • Stiff posture/gait
  • Guarding behavior
  • Stops grooming/matted fur
  • Tail flicking
  • Weight loss


Visiting a veterinarian promptly after noticing pain is important. Quickly identifying the cause of pain and implementing a treatment plan can improve the outcome. Pain management is also key to keeping your pet comfortable and encouraging healing and recovery. Waiting weeks or months to see if your pet can “get over it” on his own not only makes your pet wait in pain, but can lead to irreversible harm. Because pets are so good at hiding their pain, it is important to see your veterinarian for routine wellness checks. Over 50% of senior pets have some level of osteoarthritis and most pet owners do not recognize the pain that their cat is experiencing.

If your pet has been diagnosed with pain, treatment seems obvious; if you were suffering from pain, you would want to alleviate it, but many pet owners may be hesitant to treat their pet’s pain because of the cost of medication or simply because they are not perceiving their pet is truly painful. Typically, several options are available to treat both the pain and the underlying condition. Your veterinarian will provide you with treatment options and the benefits and downsides of each option. Your veterinarian will also work with you to find an option that will fit into your budget. Remember that when we take an animal into our care, that care includes more than food, water, walks, and place to sleep. We have to be prepared to bear all the costs associated with caring for our pets.

Recognizing pain as a sign of something larger going on in the body is important for diagnosis and treatment. Since our pets cannot tell us when they are in pain, it is important to recognize the signs of pain and to act promptly to get them the treatment and pain relief they deserve.

LifeLearn Team |