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Recognizing Signs of Pain in Our Pets

Understanding pain in our pets is one step towards ensuring a happy, healthy lifestyle for our furry friends. But, knowing that they often hide their pain, it’s important as pet owners to be vigilant in recognizing signs of pain in our pets as well.

The month of September marks Animal Pain Awareness Month, as proclaimed by the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM). In honor of encouraging effective pain management in pets, we want to take the time to help educate you on how to recognize signs of pain in our pets. After all, here at Aloha Veterinary Acupuncture, pain in animals is something that we work closely with every single day.

Let’s get started.

Identifying Pain in Pets

While recognizing symptoms in pets can vary from pet to pet, there are five primary aspects of your pet's physical and emotional state to look out for, including:

  • Appearance

  • Appetite for food and/or water

  • Behavior

  • Movement

  • Posture


Starting with appearance, be on the lookout for any sudden or otherwise noticeable changes in your pets:

  • Fur (look for irregular dullness or unkemptness)

  • Dehydration

  • Emaciation

  • Pupils (dilation)

  • Facial expressions

  • The shine of the eyes

Appetite for Food and/or Water

In addition to your pet’s physical appearance, you should also look out for any changes in their eating and/or drinking behaviors, including:

  • Loss of appetite

  • Noticeably reduced appetite

  • Refusal to drink water


Changes in your pet's social and/or general behavior can also indicate pain. Look out for any of the following signs that could be associated with pain:

  • Unusual or excessive panting

  • Aversion to lifting

  • Deviations from normal sleep patterns

  • Restlessness

  • Concealment

  • Excessive licking or nibbling

  • Neglecting to care for their coat

  • Lethargy

  • Growling, whining, whimpering, or screaming without apparent reason

  • Seclusion

  • Displaying less affection or joy

  • Unusually quiet behavior

  • Pronounced anxiety

  • Increased aggression


Deviations in normal movement tend to be the more apparent signs of pain in pets, although sometimes they can be subtle. Take notice if your pet shows:

  • Stiff gait

  • Reduced activity

  • Reduced movement

  • Difficulties getting up

  • Limping or lameness


Lastly, minor changes in your pet's posture could also be due to pain they are currently experiencing. Look out for signs of:

  • Bent posture

  • Unusual head posture

  • A tucked abdomen

  • Limb elevation

  • Unusually curved back

When In Doubt

If ever you are unsure whether your pet is showing signs of pain, it is always recommended to bring them in to be checked by a veterinary professional. You know your pet best, so if something feels off about them, it might be worth a second set of eyes.

Pain Management with Aloha Veterinary Acupuncture

There is no denying the benefits of veterinary acupuncture when it comes to developing pain management plans for your pets. If you are interested in learning more about how veterinary acupuncture can help your pet, Dr. Kho is available for video consultations and is happy to discuss your concerns with you and determine whether your pet may benefit from acupuncture treatments.

Ultimately, the goal is to help your loved one have the best quality of life with you, and if you are unsure if they may be suffering from chronic pain, Aloha Veterinary Acupuncture can help!

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