Animals hide their pain, but they feel it just like us.
When humans are in pain, we tend to communicate it vocally. We schedule doctor visits and we ask for help. But animals hide their pain due to innate survival instincts.
In the wild, showing vulnerability can drop an animal in the established order of hierarchy. It also makes the painful one the weak one, an easy target to predators.
To adapt, animals learned to mask their pain. Traits from wild canines and felines carried over to domestic cats and dogs, including this innate survival characteristic.
Because pets are experts at hiding pain, many diseases, such as arthritis, go undiagnosed. But despite a pet's ability or desire to verbally tell us it is in pain, other behaviors can be picked up on to signify discomfort.
Cats, for example, might hide in the closet. Dogs tend to obsessively lick areas causing them pain, such as their joints or hot spots on their paws.
If your pet has suddenly begun limiting activity level, this can also cue you into what he or she may be feeling. Maybe the cat doesn't jump up on counters anymore or the dog doesn't get on the bed and sofa.
Your pooch might not be as excited about going for walks or your indoor/outdoor cat might be hanging around more inside. The dog might have loved joining you for errands before, but now he refuses to get in the car. Excessive panting could also be a sign of pain or discomfort.
A lot can be deduced by observing a pet's physicality. Jumping puts a lot of pressure on joints, so it makes sense that a pet wanting to hide joint pain would avoid this behavior.
September is Animal Pain Awareness Month, a time for pet owners to think twice about whether or not their pet would benefit from a trip to the vet. Routine annual visits can diagnose painful diseases that go unnoticed to the untrained eye.
We can't ask our pets if they are in pain, but as their guardians, we are in charge of making sure they are comfortable. An important part of being a pet owner is being aware of the animal's behavior, so make sure you're cued into your pet's pain management!