MJ Wixsom: Never downplay a pet’s pain

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 20, 2024

As a veterinarian, I often encounter pet owners who downplay signs of pain in their furry companions. 

One common scenario is when owners notice their pets limping but dismiss it as insignificant discomfort. 

However, it’s crucial to recognize that limping is a clear indication of pain in pets, just as it was for me before my total knee replacement. (Okay, still is.) 

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There is a tendency for pet owners to overlook signs of pain in their furry friends, much like I once did with my own discomfort before seeking intervention.

First and foremost, it’s essential for pet owners to recognize that animals experience pain in ways that may not always be obvious or easily identifiable. 

Just as I became accustomed to tolerating and adapting to my own knee arthritis before seeking treatment, pets may also mask their pain, making it challenging for owners to recognize the signs. 

Limping, reluctance to move, changes in behavior, and alterations in posture are all potential indicators of pain in pets that should not be overlooked.

Pet owners should remain vigilant and proactive in monitoring their pet’s well-being. 

Regularly observing and noting any changes in behavior or mobility can help detect subtle signs of discomfort early on. 

Additionally, staying informed about common signs of pain in pets, such as vocalization, licking or biting at a specific area, or withdrawal from social interaction, can aid in early detection and intervention.

Arthritis causes inflammation and degeneration of joints, resulting in pain and reduced mobility over time. 

Without intervention, the condition can progress, significantly impairing your pet’s ability to enjoy activities they once loved. 

This parallels my experience with knee arthritis, where untreated pain hindered my daily activities and overall enjoyment of life.

Once pain is recognized, the next step is to take appropriate action to address it effectively. 

Consulting with a veterinarian is paramount, as they can provide expert guidance and tailored treatment plans to alleviate pain and improve the overall quality of life for pets. 

Veterinarians can conduct thorough evaluations, including physical examinations and diagnostic tests, to determine the underlying cause of pain and recommend appropriate interventions.

Fortunately, both medical and non-medical solutions exist for managing arthritis in pets. 

Just as we tried many treatments over the past decades my knee pain, including medications, physical therapy and lifestyle modifications, similar approaches can benefit pets.

In many cases, pharmacological interventions, such as pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs, may be prescribed to provide relief for pets experiencing discomfort. 

However, it’s crucial for pet owners to follow veterinary recommendations closely and avoid administering over-the-counter medications without professional guidance, as many human pain medications can be toxic to pets.

Medically, veterinarians may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation in pets with arthritis. For example, while NSAIDs can provide relief for both humans and pets with arthritis, the appropriate dosage for dogs and cats may vary significantly from what is typically prescribed for humans.

Moreover, certain pain medications that are safe for humans may pose serious risks to pets, particularly when administered without veterinary supervision.

Many pain medications commonly used in humans, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can be toxic to dogs and cats if administered inappropriately. 

The dosages that are safe and effective for humans may be drastically different for our animal companions. 

This highlights the necessity of consulting a veterinarian before administering any medication to pets, even if it seems harmless based on our own experiences.

Additionally, supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin can support joint health and slow disease progression. 

Beware that not all supplements are created equal. Get one recommended by your vet. 

Physical therapy and acupuncture are non-medical options that can improve mobility and alleviate discomfort in affected pets.

Furthermore, weight management plays a crucial role in arthritis management, as excess weight exacerbates joint strain. 

Just as maintaining a healthy weight is essential for managing your knee arthritis, ensuring your pet maintains an optimal body condition can alleviate stress on their joints and improve overall comfort.

Through a combination of medical interventions and lifestyle modifications, we can help alleviate pain and improve the overall health and happiness of our beloved animal companions. 

I am looking forward to trying a few new prescription meds to try to help my lingering pain.

MJ Wixsom, DVM MS is a best-selling Amazon author who practices at Guardian Animal Medical Center in Flatwoods, Ky. GuardianAnimal.com 606-928-6566