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  • Writer's pictureSieske Valk

Is my cat or dog in pain?

Dog with grey muzzle staring into the camera, laughing. Setting is a green garden
Photo credit: Berkay Gumustekin on Unsplash

Let’s talk about pain and discomfort.

Are you that person who drags their dog along on a walk because they are walking so slowly? Or perhaps they are very grumpy towards other dogs and people on walks? Or is your cat sleeping all the time and just not as cuddly anymore?

I often get told by pet owners that their pet isn’t in pain. Even though the pet is walking stiffly, moving less than usual and sleeping more. How do you know if your pet is or isn’t in pain? Pets, and especially cats, are very good at hiding their discomfort. They won’t cry out for low-level and chronic discomfort; they just stop moving or start lashing out. And at a certain point in their life, joint supplements are not going to cut it anymore.

The only way to notice whether your cat or dog is in pain is to do a pain-relief trial for a few weeks and see whether they get more active and alert, are happier, cuddlier and more playful. We can link back lots of issues, such as obesity, lethargy and aggressive or moody behaviour back to pain so in those cases I would always recommend talking to your primary veterinarian and bringing up a pain-relief trial.

Even if your pet seems “fine”, as they’re just getting a bit “older”, try it anyway. You’ll never know what you might find out about your furry friend! And who knows, they might even get a new lease of life out of it… After you’ve done a trial for a few weeks and you found they feel better on pain relief, you can start to find the source of discomfort, treat it and possibly taper down the pain relief to a manageable dose that is not harmful to the internal organs.

Don’t be fooled to think pain relief only comes in a bottle. I believe wholeheartedly that we get the best results if we use a variety of pain relief modalities. For instance, my own (almost) 17-year-old cat Lewis receives a very light dose of Gabapentin twice daily and acupuncture every 5-7 weeks on top of a host of supplements and the smallest dose of steroids to make sure he is not in pain due to his osteoarthritis and that his pancreatitis flare-ups are under control. I also keep a hawk eye on his weight as Lewis loves to eat and sleep more when he is in pain. The moment he starts licking his knees, I know he needs an acupuncture session because they are bothering him. On top of that, I make sure he goes outside multiple times per day to "do his rounds" to keep him moving his muscles and stay strong.

Before I have also tried monthly Solensia injections, Metacam (an NSAID), osteopathy and physiotherapy, but we have found this regime to work best, is the least intrusive and not unimportantly, affordable.

Coming to this program of pain relief and supplementary treatments has been a journey of trial and error, but with good veterinary support and yearly blood monitoring, I have made sure he is still thriving, happy and more importantly, not in pain.

If you would like to learn more about how pain might be affecting your pet, please feel free to book a free exploratory chat with me.

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