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Understanding Pain in Our Pets

Updated: May 24

We often associate an obvious injury when we think of pain, especially in our pets, such as a dog that has an ear infection and whines when the ear is touched or a kitty that jumped down from a high perch and is now limping.


However, unlike humans, even domesticated animals are intrinsically wired to hide their pain. This evolutionary trait helps prevent them from being preyed upon in the wild. As a result, many pets will experience low-level chronic pain and may only show subtle signs until their condition is severe. While the pet may not be showing obvious signs of distress, this chronic low-level pain is likely causing much more harm to them than meets the eye.



In this article, we’ll take a closer look at pain as we focus on doing a better job of recognizing it in our pets. To treat any level of pain or discomfort in our furry friends, we must first gain a more accurate understanding of how it works.


Pain and Emotion


The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience with actual or potential tissue damage.” This highlights a crucial aspect of pain: the emotional experience associated with it.



Emotional Health Concerns Caused by Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can cause several health ailments in our pets, including:


  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Decreased appetite

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Suffering of the animal


Many owners will unknowingly attribute these changes to their pet aging, which can lead to early euthanasia due to presumed negative quality of life. While the pet’s quality of life is undoubtedly poor, addressing the cause of an underlying painful condition can help to improve that greatly.


Multimodal Approaches to Pain Management


Multimodal approaches to pain management are becoming increasingly popular as they are showing to be much more beneficial. An example of this style of pain management is commonly used for dogs experiencing osteoarthritis. A combination of therapies may be used, including:

  • A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs)

  • An opioid pain medication (if needed)

  • Physical therapy

  • Acupuncture

Veterinary Acupuncture and Pain Management


Independently, acupuncture works well to reduce pain; however, as a combined therapy with other modalities, the results can be exponentially greater.



To learn more about the benefits of veterinary acupuncture, check out this blog.


Create a Pain Management Plan for Your Pet with Aloha Veterinary Acupuncture


As always, if you notice any changes in your pet, it is important to discuss them with your regular veterinarian, who can determine the underlying cause. If you are unsure, 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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