Girl putting blue bandage on injured dog paw

How do you know when your pet is in pain? While they can’t say it in so many words, there are many ways pets express their discomfort. You just have to know what to look for.

In honor of Animal Pain Awareness Month, which is held each year in conjunction with human medicine’s Pain Awareness Month, here’s what you need to know about pets and pain. 

While symptoms of pain can vary greatly between pets depending on their species, breed, age and pain tolerance, some of the more obvious signs include: 

  • Low energy levels: Are they less interested in playing? Do they not want to spend time with family?
  • Changes in mobility: This could include avoiding stairs, reluctance to jump onto surfaces or difficulty standing up after laying down. 
  • Loss of appetite or water intake: This might be related to their teeth and/or mouth or an internal issue.
  • Over grooming or excessive licking of a specific area: Both cats and dogs to soothe or clean the source of the pain.
  • Restlessness, agitation or vocalization: This may include aggression, inability to relax or other behavioral changes. 
  • Increased breathing rate or panting: While more subtle, extended periods of increased heart rate or breathing can be a symptom of a variety of conditions.   

If your pet is exhibiting signs of pain or distress, the first step is to talk to your veterinarian. Then, they can address the underlying condition. 

Treatments may include medical solutions, like pain medications, surgery or physical therapy. Other solutions may be lifestyle changes, such as changes in diet or activity level (i.e. shorter walks or raising food dishes off the ground).