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How to Tell If a Pet Is in Pain

Photo by Josh, via Flickr

Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on 7x7.com. Dr. Jeannine Berger, DVM, DACVB is a board certified veterinary behaviorist who counsels guardians whose pets’ issues are beyond the scope of training. Think of her as a pet shrink at your service. Ask your own questions.

One way animals differ from humans is they don’t complain about their pain. They cover it up, acting brave, since in the wild a weakened animal is an easy target for a predator. The first rule is to assume pain is present if it seems logical: after an injury, surgery or a medical condition that would be painful for a human. Watch for subtle signs: Your pet is hiding or lethargic, less active, eating less, your cat sits in an unnatural “sphinx,” position or your dog shows unusual reactions when handled, such as whining or acting aggressive.  Any change in behavior can signal pain and should be checked out by your veterinarian. Pain therapy has become a cornerstone of modern veterinary care.These days, we treat pain by many different avenues, with opiods, anti-inflammatory drugs, anxiety relaxers, acupuncture and several other modalities. With timely, proper diagnosis of the problem and the huge range of effective medications available, there’s no reason your pet should ever silently suffer from pain.