Pet Pain Awareness Month: How your veterinarian figures out “Where does it hurt?”

Unlike the family doctor, veterinarians never get to ask their patients this basic question: Where does it hurt?

veterinarian with hand on dog

If your pet changes behavior, there may be an underlying cause: pain.

But thanks to many scientific advances, veterinarians now have powerful new techniques for diagnosing whether your pets are in pain, and for planning treatment to make things better.

That’s why experts from BluePearl Veterinary Partners are urging pet owners to become aware of signs that their pets may be suffering from pain. It’s even more relevant in September, which the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management has designated as “Animal Pain Awareness Month.”

“Contacting your family veterinarian is one of the first things that should take place if you think your pet may be in pain,” said BluePearl’s Dr. Tiffany Granone, who is board-certified in anesthesia and analgesia. “There are many new tools veterinarians can use to diagnose and really assess pain and the treatment of pain.”

It’s an important issue because pets can develop additional health problems if they’re living with untreated pain, Granone said.  For example, consider a dog with knee pain. The pain may prevent her from walking across the room to her water bowl. This could make her dehydrated, which could be harmful, especially if she happens to have underlying kidney problems.

“We know that pain exists in animals and we know it needs to be treated,” Granone said. “We also know that not treating it leads to subsequent medical conditions.”

Here are some possible signs that your dog or cat may be feeling pain:

  • Your cat vanishes. Cats tend to disappear when feeling sick and sometimes twitch their tails more than normal.
  • Your dog doesn’t want to go on his daily walk or any other activity he normally loves.
  • Changes in the way your pets walk – such as moving slower, hunching over or limping. An injury could be the underlying cause.
  • Pets who yelp or snarl when being scratched or petted, especially if they seemed to like it before.

If you notice these signs or others, go to your family veterinarian, who can help you understand whether these signs of pain point to deeper medical problems.

In some cases, the veterinarian may refer your pet to a specialist such as those at BluePearl Veterinary Partners. Many BluePearl veterinarians have received years of additional training to become certified as experts. They treat many of the conditions that lead to long-term pain, such as knee or hip problems. Most BluePearl hospitals also are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with veterinarians always on hand for emergencies.