One of life’s harshest frustrations is being unable to ease the pain of someone we love, and when humans live with beloved animals the situation is no less grievous. Animal pain often comes with an added twist; animals can be very adept at hiding their pain. Unfortunately, while having some survival benefits in the wild, hiding pain until it is too late to solve the problem is counterproductive in modern society with our ever-expanding diagnostic and treatment options.
How to do an Assessment
If your dog or cat is not showing any overt signs of pain, it still may be a good idea to do a routine health/wellness assessment once a month. This can be especially important as your pet ages. But at any time and at any age if you notice a physical or behavioral change, a quick home physical examination will be useful.
Here are a few hints:
- Note any weight gain or loss
- Rub hands firmly over the body, feeling for any bumps, dampness, hair mats
- Gently extend legs checking for stiffness or pain
- Press lightly on paw pads and examine nails
- Check ears and eyes for discharge, itchiness, redness
- Teeth and mouth should be clean with no nasty odor
- Listen to breathing for signs of abnormality
- Look for hair loss
- Note fleas, ticks, ear mites
- Make sure elimination is normal in amount, consistency, and color
- Make sure eating habits are normal for your pet
- Make sure exercise and sleep habits are consistent
- Note any negative mood changes
When to seek help
If your home examination turns up anything suspicious, some deeper observation culminating in a vet visit may be a good idea. If you have a conventional veterinarian, he or she will probably want to treat the symptoms of whatever condition your pet has in a very traditional manner, involving drugs and/or surgery. However, if you are interested in healing your pet from whatever is causing pain, an integrative or holistic veterinarian will be a better choice. While finding a holistic veterinarian can be difficult in some areas of the country, one organization to consult is the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, AHVMA. Holistic vets can be amazing medical detectives using gentle techniques such as acupuncture, Western and Eastern herbs, homeopathy, cold laser therapy, nutraceuticals, ozone therapy, and other regenerative modalities. All of these treatments can be used very effectively to combat pain and find its root cause.
Think long term
When our pet is in pain our first instinct is to want a quick fix, but sometimes a long-term healing strategy without deleterious side effects is a far better choice. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to treating your pet’s pain, especially if caught early by your monthly home assessment. That caring attention may be the first step in restoring your pet’s health or even saving your pet’s life.