In our first appointment we ask clients whether they think their dog or cat is in pain. Often, the client answers no or unsure. However, our exam findings often show yes.
One of the biggest misconceptions of pain in animals is that if they are not screaming out then, they must not be in pain. Signs of pain can often be subtle. It can be changes in their behavior, body posture, appetite, or even changes in their facial expression.
The following are clinical signs that a pet may be in pain:
- Putting less weight on any limb when standing still
- Reluctance to go up stairs
- Reluctance to jump on furniture or in and out of the car
- Trouble getting up from sitting or lying
- Stiffness when they first get up
- Decreased ability to run
- Taking longer than usual to sit or lie down or avoiding sitting
- Sitting in a strange position that is new
- Vocalization when sitting or lying down
- Walking while defecating
- Difficulty posturing to go to the bathroom
- Reluctance to walk on slick flooring
- Not wanting to go on walks
- Stopping or lying down on walks
- Crying out
- Increase anxiety
- Increased agitation, such as when playing with other dogs
- Avoiding activities that they normally enjoy
- Excessive licking or biting of a specific area
- Aggression or crying out when picked up or touched in a specific area
- Dilated pupils
- Increased panting
- Increased lip smacking
- Decreased appetite
- Reluctance to get up
- Hunched spine
- Lowered head
- Ears pulled back
- Squinting eyes
- Tight cheeks
- Circling multiple times before lying down
- Hesitation to do normal body postures such as sit, lying sternal, or standing
- Shuffling or shifting weight when standing
Take the survey below to help identify signs of pain in your dog.
Helsinki Chronic Pain Index
Hielm-Bjorkman HK, Rita H, Tulamo R-M. Psychometric testing of the Helsinki chronic pain index by completion of a questionnaire in Finnish by owners of dogs with chronic signs of pain caused by osteoarthritis. Am J Vet Res. 70: 727 – 734, 2009.
Score: 0-11: Your pet is not showing any overt signs of pain. This doesn’t mean definitively that your dog is not in pain. You can refer to the list below for other possible signs of pain in your pet. A rehabilitation consultation could help look for more subtle signs of pain and injury.. \\In our first appointment we will perform a thorough orthopedic, neurological and soft tissue exam. We will make recommendations based on our findings, give you exercises to perform at home and get started with treatments to help address any issues we find.
Score 12-44: Your pet is showing signs of chronic pain. We recommend scheduling a rehabilitation consultation to help narrow in on the areas causing pain. In our first appointment we will perform a thorough orthopedic, neurological and soft tissue exam. We will make recommendations based on our findings, give you exercises to perform at home and get started with treatments to help decrease your pet’s pain and get them on a path back to feeling better.