My Pet is in Pain! What Do I Do?!

Kristin Saunders, BS, LVT
Veterinary Information Specialist
Pet Poison Helpline

Almost every animal will experience some form of pain at some point in their life.  Whether it’s a young animal who is rough housing and hurts their leg, an older animal experiencing the effects of aging, or an animal with an upset stomach, pain can come in all different forms.  It can be heartbreaking to see our animals in pain without knowing what we can do for them.

How do we know if our animal is in pain?  Animals can exhibit pain differently than humans.  Below are a few behaviors that can be an indication your pet is in pain.  However, it can also be an indication of other underlying conditions, so it is always best to follow up with your veterinarian if any of these symptoms occur.

  • Abnormal sitting or lying posture
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Whining, groaning, crying, or growling
  • Limping, unwilling to get up or move, unwilling to lie down
  • Trembling, shivering
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Aggression
  • Licking or biting the affected area
  • Lack of grooming
  • Hiding or a decrease

It may be tempting to reach for that bottle of over-the-counter pain medication such as Ibuprofen, Aleve, or Tylenol, but medications that are not prescribed by a veterinarian may cause a toxicity to occur.  These medications can have an adverse effect on the gastrointestinal tract, liver, kidneys, and red blood cell production.  Also, avoid the use of prescription pain medications such as opioids that are not specifically prescribed for your animal.  The misuse of these medications can have a negative effect on the cardiovascular, and central nervous systems.

While you are waiting to have your pet evaluated by your veterinarian, here are some tips to try and keep your pet comfortable at home:

  • Apply a cold compress to the affected area for about 10 minutes several times a day. Ensure the ice pack is not placed directly on the skin and the area where the cold compress is applied returns to a normal body temperature before applying the next compress.
  • Restrict your pet’s activity level and confine them to a small room or kennel.
  • Don’t allow them to run, jump on furniture, and limit the use of stairs, if possible.
  • Provide lots of bedding and blankets so they will be able to rest comfortably.
  • Provide easy access to plenty of food and water.

If you have any questions regarding an injury or a painful condition about your pet, we recommend contacting your veterinarian.  If your pet has accidentally received medications not prescribed by your veterinarian, please contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline.