Do you know what to look for if your cat or dog is in pain? Tabitha Kucera, a registered veterinary technician (RVT) and a certified cat behavior training consultant, discussed just that in a recent post. Cats and dogs can’t tell us when they are in pain, and sometimes we can misread their behavior. Knowing the signs can mean getting treatment and allowing pets to live pain-free again.
Sometimes, a cat’s behavioral issues can even lead to euthanasia. That’s why Kucera started a Cat Behavior Consulting and Education company called Chirrups and Chatter, based in Northeast Ohio. As a registered veterinary technician, she had seen how misunderstandings about cats’ behavior could make it harder for them to stay in their homes. Reducing a pet’s fear, pain, and stress reduces aggression. At the same time, it helps those who love them feel less stressed too.
Recently, Kucera became one of only 30 Veterinary Technician Specialists with a Behavior designation in the world. So, let’s see what she shared about the signs your cat or dog could be in pain and what to do about it.
Signs and Signals Your Pet is In Pain
“What if you couldn’t tell your doctor that you were in pain?” she asks. “Animals suffer from pain just like we do. Pain comes in many forms: surgical pain, arthritis and cancer, just to name a few.”
Pain can come in many forms, and sometimes subtle behavioral changes are the tell.
“Acute pain is obvious and distressing. Chronic pain can be subtle and masked as “getting old” or “slowing down.” Age is not a disease, but pain is. There are many options to treat the various causes of pain in animals, including pain medications, physical rehabilitation, and acupuncture,” Kucera wrote.
Since we are with our pets regularly, we are the ones who will notice slight changes in behavior day to day.
“You are in the best position to identify the signs and signals that your pet is in pain or distress. The sooner their pain is diagnosed and treated, the sooner they can go on to enjoy their happy, comfortable life.”
In the diagram below, Kucera shares these signs and signals your pet could be in pain:
- not as socially active
- decreased or “picky” appetite
- changes in sleeping or drinking behavior
- house soiling
- sleeps more
- won’t groom/grooming less
- looks unkept
- protects a part of their body
- Won’t put weight on a limb
- may growl or hiss when other pets/people approach
- Does not want to be picked up or held
- resistance to being pet
- furrowed brow
- vacant stare
- squinty/eyes closed
- glazed, wide-eyed or looks sleepy
- enlarged pupils
- flattened ears
- excessive licking, biting, or scratching of a body part
- not wanting to move
- difficulty getting up
- trembles or shakes
- are not resting in their favorite places
- decrease in participating in their favorite activities
- acts out of character
- more irritable
- laying with feet underneath them
- arched back
- tucked in abdomen (hunched)
- lower head posture
Here’s another simpler version she shared recently:
Below, she talks about taking cats to the vet using Fear Free and cooperative care techniques. For instance, did you know that scruffing a cat can create unnecessary stress for cats?