Is your pet in pain?

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Joan Henderson
Something’s wrong —when your cat is not interested in the bowl you have just put out with her favourite food for dinner, don’t ignore it. When you eventually find her, sad-eyed and moping under the dining room table, you assume this means there’s a ‘present’ for you somewhere. You check the house but find nothing “Hmm…” you ask yourself. “What’s wrong with her?”Something’s wrong —when your cat is not interested in the bowl you have just put out with her favourite food for dinner, don’t ignore it. When you eventually find her, sad-eyed and moping under the dining room table, you assume this means there’s a ‘present’ for you somewhere. You check the house but find nothing “Hmm…” you ask yourself. “What’s wrong with her?”
 
Well, lots of things could be wrong with your pet, but one thing is probably certain: No matter what’s causing her strange behaviour, it’s a good bet that she is in pain.Pet pain has not always gotten a lot of attention, simply because animals can’t talk. And unlike in the human world, where a little crying will often get you ice-cream and an aspirin, in the animal world, showing signs of pain can quickly lead to becoming someone else’s lunch. Even though our pets no longer live in the wild, they still have instincts tohide pain. That’s why, as a concerned pet parent, it’s important to be aware that your cat can be in pain, even though it may not be obvious. It’s also important to be aware of the subtle signs – so you can recognise when something is wrong with your pet and bring it to the attention of your veterinarian.
 
Signs of pain
A more obvious sign of pain is a normally active pet who becomes sedentary, seems depressed, or is reluctant to play. One of the first signs to be aware of is a reduced level of activity. Pets will often show signs of lameness, or they may not eat as much or groom themselves as frequently – something that is particularly true for cats.Pets can’t talk, so often the only way to tell they’re in pain is by watching how they act! Pets in pain may cry, whimper, purr or seem unusually unfriendly. Just as in people, pain can also make pets seem grouchy or blah! Your cat or dog may lay her ears flat against her head, or ‘clamp’ her tail close to her body or between her legs.
 
Some more stoic than others
It is very important for pet parents to realise that pets can be in pain and never really seem to show it. Some people are just more stoic than others and the same may be true of some pets. Cats, in particular, are known for this type of behaviour. This can be traced to their need to hide signs of pain in the wild. The best way to ensure your pet’s comfort is to know what can cause pain. If something is known to be painful in humans, then it probably is known to be painful for your pet too and should be treated.
 
Seek vet’s help
Veterinarians can provide pain medication for your pets for relatively routine procedures, such as spray/neutering, dental cleanings and extractions and it is also frequently best to start medications the day before such procedures. If, for some reason, you find your vet isn’t regularly recommending pain treatment, then it’s up to you, as the pet parent, to ask for it. Your pet will thank you for it! However, before giving medication the veterinarian will make sure that there is nothing really seriously wrong with your pet.Some common signsSome common signs to watch for that will tell you if your pet is in pain. l Reduced activity lReduced appetitel Trembling lHigh heart ratel Rolling lDepressionl Limping lInability to eat or sleepl In cats, cessation of groomingl Behaviour changes — a reluctance to jump an important sign in older cats with back painPain can be managed and even eliminated, allowing pets to return to their normal level of activity and interest in life.
 
(Joan E Henderson is based in Australia and she has judged furry felines in many other countries including USA, Bermuda, Malaysia, South Africa, Hong Kong, Philippines and New Zealand)

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