How can you tell if your pet is in pain?

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Is your pet in pain? How do you know?

Pain assessment in animals can be challenging to diagnose because they do not talk to us, at least in a way we can understand.

Statistics show that more than 80 percent of dogs older than 9 and cats older than 11 have some degree of osteoarthritis. But osteoarthritis is not the only cause of pain.

In dogs, certainly, decreased activity might represent a response to pain. Bone pain in the limbs can cause lameness. Dogs that change their posture when urinating or defecating might be doing so because of pain in their backs, especially near the pelvis. These symptoms should be addressed.

Cats can be more subtle in their pain responses. A cat that becomes more aggressive toward a caretaker may be dealing with pain. You might pet your cat only to have it turn toward you and hiss or even bite when you pet it in a particular location. The cat is likely responding to pain.

Cats will at times excessively lick or bite at themselves in response to an area in their body where they feel pain. They might lick excessively at the air; this is especially true with pain in the mouth. They might stop jumping to places they had in the past or not climb stairs as readily as in the past.

The key to making a pain diagnosis is knowing your pet's routines and habits. If something changes in your pet's routine, it is up to you to figure out why. If you suspect your pet is in pain, whether acute or chronic, bring it to the veterinarian for assessment.