April 2017 Magazines - Page 49

Petpourri Whimpering, Wincing or Withdrawal: Recognizing Pain and Anxiety in Pets By Ashlee Verba A S PET OWNERS , IT ’ S SAFE TO SAY WE ONLY WANT THE BEST FOR OUR COMPANIONS ; from investing in their diets to making sure they get exercise regularly, their health and wellbeing are undoubtedly our responsibility. So when something seems amiss with your animal, it can be stressful and unsettling when you can’t pinpoint what exactly is going on. Of course, it’s not recognizing the abnormal behavior that’s difficult; it’s figuring out what’s causing it and how to eliminate the discomfort they’re experiencing that can leave humans scratching their heads. There are two main culprits behind behavioral changes in pets: pain and/or anxi- ety. Just like in humans, pet pain can happen anywhere in the body and vary in severity, while anxiety can develop over time or be triggered suddenly without your even realizing it. The tricky part is that all animals will react differently with the onset of pain or anxiety. Some pets will try to remain strong and unfazed, oth- ers might become needy, and some may become destructive. While any abnormal behaviors should always be discussed with your veterinarian, we’re breaking down the main signs of pet pain and anxiety and how best to help your buddy. Ouch! Let’s Talk Pet Pain Recognizing pet pain can be difficult, as most pets instinctively try to hide it as a latent survival mechanism. Obviously if your dog steps on a thorn and begins to limp they’re hurt, but pinpointing it in, say, an older dog whose joints just started aching with arthritis can be much more difficult. Changes in normal behavior can absolutely point to pain– things like disinterest in playtime or mealtime, decreased grooming in cats, withdrawal from interaction with people or other pets, more sleep than normal, maybe even increased vocalization. Then there are the downright abnormal behaviors like excessive panting or drooling, improper elim- ination, aggression, altered posture or facial expression, restlessness and hiding. These are the main indicators that your pet is experiencing physical discomfort. April/May 2017 49