Pet Prescriptions from Australian Pharmacists

Recognising the Signs of Pain in Your Pet

If there ever was a time when you wished your pet could talk, it was probably when you thought they were in pain. Unfortunately, our pets aren't able to tell us when they are experiencing pain, so it is up to you to determine if they might be in pain, or if it is something else. This article will cover the difference between acute and chronic pain and will list common signs of pain in both dogs and cats.

Acute Pain

Acute pain is typically obvious in pets and can be quite distressing to witness. It is usually in response to some kind of stimulus such as a crushing or twisting, or a tissue injury that is the result of a bruise, wound or surgical incision. Acute pain is generally short-lived and typically resolves within 3 days after the event that caused it.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain describes any type of pain that lasts longer than expected, or pain that is associated with long-term diseases such as osteoarthritis. Symptoms of chronic pain may be more subtle than acute pain symptoms and can be mistakenly attributed to "getting old" or "slowing down", which often means that the underlying cause of pain is left untreated.

Other Types of Pain

Other types of pain that our pets can experience include pain from cancerous tumour growths or pain from chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Neuropathic pain is caused by nerve damage or damage to another part of the central nervous system, and can be difficult to diagnose.

Signs of Pain in Dogs

Physical signs:

  • Heavy breathing
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Change in heart rate

Behavioural signs:

  • Irritability
  • Unusual restlessness or anxiety
  • Mood or personality changes
  • Withdrawn behaviour
  • Licking, biting or overgrooming the site of pain
  • Reduced activity
  • Reluctance to lie down or difficulty standing after lying down
  • Reduced appetite
  • Whining or barking

Signs of Pain in Cats

Physical signs:

  • Sitting still and hunched up
  • Faster and more shallow breathing
  • Change in heart rate
  • Enlarged pupils

Behavioural signs:

  • Irritability
  • Unusual restlessness, anxiety or aggression
  • Mood or personality changes
  • Withdrawn behaviour and hiding
  • Loss of interest in people or other pets or clingy behaviour
  • Licking, biting or overgrooming the site of pain or neglecting to groom altogether
  • Inability or reluctance to jump up onto surfaces
  • Reluctance to lie down or difficulty standing after lying down
  • Reduced appetite
  • Excessive meowing, purring, growling or unusual vocalisations
  • Doing their business outside of the litter box

Treating Pain in Pets

If you suspect your pet is in pain, you should never attempt to medicate them without first consulting a veterinarian. Many pain medications for humans can be fatal if administered to pets. Together with your veterinarian, you can develop a plan to treat or manage your pets pain ensuring they can maintain a good quality of life.

One medication that is commonly prescribed to treat both acute and chronic pain is Metacam. Metacam is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for use in both dogs and cats. It is commonly prescribed by veterinarians to treat musculoskeletal disorders, alleviate the pain of soft tissue injuries and to reduce post-operative pain and inflammation. If your veterinarian has prescribed Metacam for your pet, you can view our prices for Metacam here.