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Signs of Pain in Cats & Dogs

As pet owners, you need to be aware of the subtle signs that your pet is in pain, as cats and dogs are notorious for hiding their discomfort. Our Exeter veterinarians share their knowledge of the symptoms and indicators of pain in cats and dogs.

How to Tell if a Cat or Dog Is in Pain

It can be difficult to tell if a cat or dog is in pain, depending on their personality and the type of pain they feel.

While acute pain due to injury or accident is usually more noticeable, chronic pain such as arthritis or gum disease can be harder to detect.

Dogs and cats tend to hide their pain. So, owners need to keep an eye out for any unusual behavior, personality changes, limping, or changes in appetite.

Signs That a Cat Is in Pain

If your cat is in pain, you may observe one or more of the symptoms below:

  • Frequent meowing or howling
  • Not using their litterbox
  • Tail flicking
  • Won't eat or reduced appetite
  • Poor grooming, scruffy-looking
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive hiding
  • Limping
  • Avoiding being handled
  • Behavioral changes
  • Irritability
  • Uncharacteristic hissing/growling/spitting
  • Unusual vocalizations
  • Excessive grooming
  • Panting
  • Patchy fur

Cats in pain will often display changes in body language. In some cases, the body language changes of a cat in pain will be very noticeable, but often, these changes are more subtle. Our vets recommend always monitoring your cat's overall demeanor, stance, and gait so that any changes from their normal will be easily spotted.

Signs of Pain in Dogs

Lots of people ask us how to tell if their dog is in pain. There are some obvious and not-so-obvious signs that you can look out for.

Some examples of these signs are: 

  • Significant decrease in appetite 
  • Tail tucked in or lowered
  • Spending more time sleeping
  • Yelping or whining 
  • Irritability 
  • Limping 
  • Reluctance to climb stairs or jump 
  • Reduced play or enjoyment of exercise 

If your previously active and friendly dog is now avoiding petting, no longer wants to play, or has lost his appetite, it may be because there's pain. Changes in your dog's behavior may indicate pain, and it's important to take him to the vet for examination and diagnosis. Pain can tire dogs, just as it can tire humans.

If your dog suffers from chronic or recent pain, you may notice he sleeps more. If your dog shows signs of pain, contact your vet to identify the underlying problem. If your dog has been injured and is bleeding, unconscious, vomiting, or has diarrhea, this is a veterinary emergency that requires immediate attention.

When to Seek Veterinary Care

Signs of pain in cats and dogs are often unnoticed until their condition is advanced. When it comes to your pet's long-term health, it's always best to err on the side of caution.

If your cat or dog shows signs of pain, contact your vet immediately to schedule an examination or seek emergency veterinary care. Pain management and early treatment of painful conditions are essential to preserving your cat's quality of life.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you concerned that your cat is showing signs of pain? Contact our Exeter vets today to have your feline friend cared for.

New Patients Welcome

Pacific Crest Companion Animal is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Exeter companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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