Pain Awareness Month: What Do You Need to Know?

Wouldn’t life be easier if our pets could tell us about their aches and pains? Unfortunately, until they master our language, our ability to identify an animal in pain relies on observation alone. Yet we find many pet parents aren’t sure what signs to look for to determine if their pets are suffering from illness or injury.

September has been proclaimed Pain Awareness Month, dedicated to identifying, diagnosing, and treating pain in pets and people. As veterinary professionals, we’re committed to helping pet owners interpret the actions and behaviors that may communicate their companion is experiencing pain. Keep reading to learn what you need to know about pain in your furry family members.

The Pain Our Pets Experience

In the animal world, vulnerability can be the difference between life and death. Because pain can be a sign of weakness, pets are hardwired to disguise their discomfort. While cats are characterized as aloof and unbothered, dogs can be just as stoic. This leaves humans at a disadvantage when recognizing our pets aren’t feeling their best.

Pain is Categorized into Acute Pain or Chronic Pain

Acute pain is often sharp and short-lived. It is a response from the nerves to the brain that something is wrong and to stop further damage to the body. When experiencing acute pain, an animal usually can’t focus on anything else.

Chronic or long-term pain is typically duller than acute pain. Still, the constant aches and soreness can drain the fun out of day-to-day activities for many pets.

While both forms of pain are very serious, often chronic pain is more challenging to recognize. People may overlook signs of chronic pain or mislabel symptoms as the natural progression of aging. And the cause and symptoms of long-term pain can develop gradually, making them harder to spot.

Why Does Recognizing and Treating Pain Matter?

Effective treatment of pain is vital for the wellbeing of your pet. Acute pain can signal a serious injury like a ligament sprain, broken bone, or severe internal damage. As for chronic pain, when your pet is always feeling aches and soreness, they cannot enjoy all the fun, love, and happiness you provide. As a pet owner, you’re the only chance your pet has to find relief from pain.

What Are the Signs of Pain in Pets?

We will ask you questions about your pet’s day-to-day experiences with pain during your pet’s annual exam, especially as they grow older. But don't wait until a yearly appointment if your pet is exhibiting symptoms of pain now.

Do Not Ignore These Signs of Pain

Acute Pain:

  • Yelping
  • Crying
  • Whining
  • Whimpering
  • Limping
  • Drooling
  • Hunching
  • Difficulty getting around
  • Squinting or winking
  • Panting
  • Aggression

Chronic Pain:

  • Withdrawing from social interaction
  • Hiding
  • Difficulty participating in activities 
  • Hesitating when walking or climbing steps
  • Limping
  • Reduced appetite
  • Eating slower
  • Changes in bathroom behavior
  • Vocalizing
  • Increased sleeping and lethargy

If you suspect your pet may be in pain, we encourage you to make an appointment right away. The sooner we can diagnose your pet, the sooner they can feel better. Additionally, early diagnosis often means a shorter recovery period and more effective treatments.

Find the Right Pain Relief for Your Pet

Pain does not have to be permanent. With medication, physical therapy, supplements, and changes to diet and habits, your pet can feel better, no matter the cause of their pain.

We offer a wide array of treatments to restore your pet’s mobility, comfort, and joy. From surgery to pain medications, we’ll partner with you through the process and provide our knowledge and expertise on your pet’s condition so you can make an informed decision. Give your pet relief from pain and make an appointment today.

Photo Credit: Helena Lopes / Pexels

After-Hours Emergencies

After Hours Veterinary Care
1014 Dale Street North
St. Paul, MN 55117
(Inside Como Park Animal Hospital just north of downtown St. Paul)
24-hour care for multiple species

Animal Emergency & Referral Center of MN
1163 Helmo Avenue N
Oakdale, MN 55128


Animal Emergency & Referral Center of MN
1542 7th St. W.
St. Paul, MN 55012
(located 2 blocks east of 35E)