How to Evaluate and Manage Pain in Your Pet

Pets can't speak to humans, making it hard for them to tell us when they're in pain.

When you see your pet every day, it can be difficult to note differences in their behavior that might indicate pain or discomfort. Subtle changes can be picked up by veterinarians, which is why annual checkups should be a part of every animal's routine care.

However, if you begin to objectively observe your pet's behavior, you might be able to pick up on these changes yourself.


Signs of pain in pets includes:

  • Lethargy
  • Limping
  • Inappetence
  • Restlessness
  • Changes in vocalization, such as increased or decreased barking or whining
  • OCD
  • Altered activity patterns, such as not jumping up on things or wanting to socialize or go for walks
  • GI upset
  • Hunched position
  • Changes in grooming patterns

Really, any changes in your pet's behavior could suggest pain or discomfort, even something like drinking water more frequently. In this example, an underlying kidney issue could be making your pet uncomfortable.


It is important to note that animals do not showcase pain equally. In other words, some are drama queens while others might mask discomfort. Taking into account a pet's normal reactions - or "personality" - might help you and your veterinarian decipher the level of pain your pet is experiencing, since he or she cannot pick out a number on a pain chart.

Treatment plans for pain management should include both the pet's human family members and their professional medical care team. The veterinarian might prescribe dietary changes, medications or supplements, surgery, or therapy to mitigate symptoms. Follow-up exams will be necessary to determine if the treatment plan is working.

Have you ever noticed one of these subtle signs of pain in your pet? Share the story in the comments below.

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