Managing Pain Naturally in Pets
Updated: May 25
No one wants their pets to be in pain, but sometimes it can be quite difficult to pick up on the subtle signs of pain your pet may be displaying. I know that I am not a big fan of having to use NSAIDs, like carprofen, on my pet because of the possible side effects. However, I also do not want to think that my pet may be suffering because I am not doing enough for them.
What are some of the subtle signs of pain in our pets? Animals can be quite stoic, so it is important to pay attention to the subtle changes that may be occurring. We all know our pets the best, so if they are not acting right compared to their normal, most likely there is something going on, whether that is pain or something else. Here are the basic symptoms of pain:
• Slowing down
• Stopping frequently on walks
• Sleeping more
• Hesitation to jump into the car
• Cats stay lower on the ground
• Groaning noises, heavy panting
• Less affectionate/grouchy
• Aggression when touched
Pets are usually very stoic and do not vocalize when they are painful. It is important to recognize changes from their normal behaviors. If they start excessively panting, this could be a sign of pain or something else that could be abnormal for them.
Cats tend to sleep a lot as a normal behavior. Signs of pain in cats can be hanging out more on the ground and not jumping up as high as they used to. They also may have behavior changes, like becoming more aggressive if touched in a painful spot.
Dogs can start separating themselves from their families, where they used to be very social prior to feeling pain. They may also start “smelling” more trees and stopping frequently on walks. Hesitating to jump into the car and onto the bed or sofa is another pain sign.
So what can you do if your pet is starting to show some of these signs? You should bring your pet into your veterinarian, especially if this is a new problem. There are many causes of pain, ranging from soft tissue injuries all the way to cancer. The sooner you figure out the cause of the pain, the sooner you can hopefully fix it. Benjamin Franklin was 100% right with his quote "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
There are multiple treatment options for pain ranging from conventional pain medications to the natural therapies such as acupuncture, laser therapy, nutraceuticals, essential oils and herbal medicine. Having a variety of treatment options from an Eastern medicine standpoint can really help control the pain, especially if the conventional pain medications fall short.
Weight loss is the first step in helping your pain, especially when they have osteoarthritis. Excessive fat tissue releases inflammation into the body and also contributes to excessive pressure on the joints. Body condition scoring is the best way to assess whether your pet is at an ideal weight. We live in a world where most pets are actually overweight, so when we see pets who are at their ideal body weight, most people think they are too lean. This is a good chart to follow to help determine if your pet is too heavy or underweight.
You should be able to easily palpate their ribs, they should have a nice tummy tuck from the side and an hour-glass shape when you look down on them. If they feel squishy or are round or flat like a table, they are overweight. Your veterinarian should be able to help you identify their best body weight based on their body condition score. This is the easiest thing that we can control and fix, because we control what our pets eat. Yes, there are those sneaky pets who open the pantry and get into food, but for the majority we are the ones that control the quantity and types of food we are giving our pets. Most pets will eat carrots, green beans or other veggies for snacks, and these healthier, lower caloric treats can be very helpful when getting your pet to lose weight.
Here is a video that goes more in-depth on how you can help your pets naturally:
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*Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian or doctor. Dr. Katie Woodley cannot answer specific questions about your pet's medical issues or make medical recommendations for your pet without first establishing a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.