Based on evolution, animals have found ways to compensate for and mask pain. This has become beneficial for animals to avoid being identified as weak pray or a weak opponent. Unfortunately, it makes it harder for owners to identify when their animals are in pain or not feeling quite right.  Learning how to identify problems early is a great tool for owners to learn and will help prevent problems from worsening or becoming more serious down the road. It all boils down to noting any changes in your pets appearance, behavior or movement.

Changes in your pets appearance

If your pet has a duller than normal coat or increased dander, it may be an indication of a hormonal issue or dry skin.  Tearing of the eyes can indicate pain and when noted with discharge, may be a sign of infection.

Changes in your pets behavior

As we spend more and more time with our companion animals, we are able to pick up on their unique personalities. By knowing how your pet normally acts, you can become aware of anything that is out of the norm.  When animals are in pain, they can become more withdrawn or shy.  They will isolate themselves and avoid interaction with the family. They may even stop eating or taking treats.   Dogs can also become more noisy and irritable.  A normally well behaving dog may snap, growl or become overly aggressive.  This is their way of communicating “leave me alone“.  Increased urination or messing in the house can have multiple meanings and should always be noted.

Changes in your pets movement

There are obvious signs to look out for such as limping, but you want to observe subtle ways in how they are limping.  Do they ever put the foot on the ground? Do they run normally but walk with a limp? Is it worse in the morning? More subtle movement changes can be noticed by asking your dog to sit. You can note if they “sloppy sit” or if they sit completely square.   If your dog sits sloppy repeatedly, it may be an indication that they are having problems with either their pelvis or hind legs. Another sign to look out for is twitching of the skin or tensing of the back muscles  when you are petting them. When dogs are experiencing back pain, they will often round their back into a hunched over appearance.  Animals will also often lick or chew areas that are painful and numb and can even cause sores and infections.

Although the signs can be subtle, it is so important to catch problems early and discuss these issues with your pets health care provider. There is no better observer than those who spend the most time with their pets and owners input and observations are an incredible asset to keeping pets healthy.