The most common sign of pain is change in behaviour. Observing your pet day-to-day is already important because it increases your chances of noticing alarming behaviour. Pets either adopt a new behaviour, or lose a normal and these changes occur gradually. It is therefore not only important to observe our pets' mood and behaviour, it is necessary to track the observations and watch how they change over time. In this article, we discuss why this is important.
Pain and Aggression
Medical conditions that affect the ears, anal sacs, teeth and gums, bones, joints, or back (discs) are some of the more common causes of pain and discomfort. This may lead to aggressive behaviour from your pet as it is their way of defending themselves from further injury/increase in pain. In order to determine an increase in aggressive behaviour, you need to know your pet's natural aggressive levels. Dogs who are usually aggressive become less aggressive when they are in pain for example. By tracking, you will know the normal condition of your pet, and therefore find it easier to identify changes.
Pain and Fear/Anxiety
Pain can cause fear in our pets. To figure out why they are in pain, they try to draw correlations between the pain and their environment. This results in them being fearful of their environment, as they are trying to prevent being put into even more pain. When animals are in chronic pain, they tend to also suffer from anxiety. A study conducted by Vet Sci Front in 2018 showed for example, that there is a relationship between pain and noise sensitivity (how jumpy your pet is, or fearful of sudden noises). It is important again to emphasise that some pets are naturally more anxious than others, or that they may be suffering from other forms of anxiety such as separation anxiety. Tracking, helps you understand your pet in particular, and helps you identify changes in its behaviour.
Pain and Inappropriate Toilet Habits
If for example, your pet urinates / defacates somewhere that is not the usual place, it may be a sign that it is in an immense amount of pain that has reduced its mobility. Diseases affecting internal organs such as kidneys or liver will also increase the chances of your pet spoiling the house. They suddenly increase the frequency of urination, thus resulting in your pet needing to go to the bathroom more often. This also applies to diseases affecting bowel movements such as constipation. Organ decline is commonly associated with more senior pets.
Neurological Behavioural Problems
There is a lot of research about how diseases that affect the nervous system will ultimately result in changes in behaviour. Examples of these are tumors, epilepsy, brain injuries, The effects are granular and depend on the type of pet, and the type of disease. They also vary in each situation. What we do know, however, is that being able to provide a history of your pet's behaviour is helpful in diagnosis and treatment of such neurological diseases.
In conclusion, our pets cannot speak a language we understand, and they cannot tell us when they are in pain. The only thing we can do, is learn to better understand their behaviour. By observing them overtime, we get to know them better, and potentially save them from a lot of pain by identifying health problems early.
Noise Sensitivities in Dogs: An Exploration of Signs in Dogs with and without Musculoskeletal Pain Using Qualitative Content Analysis.
Lopes Fagundes AL, Hewison L, McPeake KJ, Zulch H, Mills DS
Front Vet Sci. 2018; 5():17.