If you’re trying to determine if your pet is in pain, the biggest issue is that you can’t ask them what’s wrong. While you and your pet may have a strong bond, they can’t verbalize their symptoms. Instead, you need to be able to read your pet’s behaviors to determine what type of help they need.
When your pet is in pain but you don’t know why, you feel helpless. Equip yourself with the knowledge of what to look for so your furry friend doesn’t suffer in silence. Here are ten tell-tale signs that your pet is in pain.
How to Tell If Your Dog or Cat Is Sick
1. Increased Aggression
If your pet’s behavior has become more aggressive than usual, this may be a clue that they’re feeling discomfort. When an animal has a wound they often become more protective and aggressive. This is an attempt to avoid getting further injured. Be careful when trying to locate your pet’s pain point. Touching it too forcefully may cause them to react with a growl, pinned back ears, or a bite.
2. Withdrawn or Inactive
Some pets become more antisocial or shy when they are feeling discomfort. If you can tell that your furry friend is hiding instead of greeting people as usual, investigate. This abnormal behavior usually indicates that your pet isn’t feeling well.
3. Change in Appetite
If you notice a change in your pet’s appetite, it could be a sign that your pet isn’t feeling well. There may be several reasons for a loss or dramatic increase in appetite, which is why it’s important to seek veterinary aid if the symptom persists for more than 24 hours.
4. Limping or Lameness
Many signs that your pet is in pain are subtle. But limping and lameness are a bit more obvious. If your cat or dog has trouble rising or is keeping their weight off one leg, it may indicate arthritis or hip issues. Larger dogs tend to be more affected by joint problems.
5. Weight Change
While a slight fluctuation in your pet’s weight may be a response to stress or a change in their diet, a rapid increase or decrease in your pet’s weight is a clear sign of disease. If your pet’s weight changes by 10 percent of their body weight, seek veterinary help.
6. Changes in Urination
This symptom may be more obvious in housebroken pets, but changes in their urination patterns can signify an issue. If your cat starts to urinate outside of their box or your dog has an accident inside, this can point to diabetes or other serious diseases. In contrast, a decrease in urination can mean a urinary tract problem. These are both serious symptoms that a vet should check.
Many dogs and cats develop what vets call kennel cough. While it is contagious, for most the issue resolves itself in a few weeks time. However, if a puppy or kitten contracts kennel cough it can potentially turn into pneumonia. If you notice a chronic cough, have it evaluated by your vet.
8. Eye Changes
Your pet’s eyes can tell a lot about their pain. Your pet’s eyes may be hurting if they are rubbing more than usual, have constricted pupils or if there is irregular discharge. However, if they have dilated pupils it usually means that their pain is somewhere else in their body. Squinting can also be a symptom.
Cat Symptoms Versus Dog Symptoms
Don’t be immediately alarmed if your pet throws up. It’s not uncommon for a puppy to eat some junk off the ground and throw it up later. But if they continue to vomit throughout the day and it is coupled with sluggish behavior and a lack of appetite then it’s time to take them to the vet.
Cats commonly vomit to get out a hairball. If your cat is experiencing hairballs it is because they have a proper grooming routine. Usually, the hair passes through their digestive system without any problems. But if enough hair gets caught in their stomach it results in a hairball. If you notice that they are vomiting continuously, or there is no hairball, it’s time to go to the vet.
Dogs usually don’t spend too much time grooming. If you notice an area that your dog is paying particular attention to, then be sure to gently check it for injuries. Dogs often will try to clean a wound by continuously grooming it. Even if there isn’t an open wound, your pet could still be in pain.
Cats spend a lot of their waking time grooming themselves. If you notice that your cat is grooming less it could indicate a skin disease. Or if they are over grooming it may be due to stress or skin parasites. Either way, you should treat your cat’s symptoms as needed, whether that is with a simple flea treatment or a trip to the vet.
If you need more help determining why your pet isn’t feeling well, use this pet symptom checker.
The Best Way to Help Your Pet
Keep in mind that every pet is different. It is beneficial to get to know your pet’s personality and normal behaviors. That way if they start acting differently, you know what it means and how you can help. In the event that your pet is seriously injured or sick, don’t hesitate to take them to the vet. Don’t let expensive veterinary bills deter you from getting your pet the help it needs.
If you’re looking for more help with vet bills, here are 15 organizations that offer relief.
Looking for a deeper explanation? This research study found 25 behavioral signs of pain in cats.
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