Doctor, I don’t want him to suffer!

Doctor, I don’t want him to suffer!

Across the globe, September has been declared Animal Pain Awareness Month. A sensitive subject.

September 1, 2019

You won’t be surprised to hear that “Doctor, is he in pain?” followed by “I don’t want him to suffer!” are two of the heartfelt cries I’ve heard the most often during my years of veterinary practice. And so many times I’ve heard myself say, “Don’t worry, we will do everything we can to relieve his pain!” As a veterinarian, that means to determine and eliminate the cause of the disease, avoid recurrence and find an optimal therapeutic approach to soothe the pain, especially in certain chronic diseases. The perpetual challenge of veterinary medicine!

However, even though it’s clearly established that animals are sentient beings who can experience pain, the fact remains that pain is a complex phenomenon that can involve a subjective element that’s prone to a more or less emotional interpretation on the part of pet owners.

For the majority of people who will say to you, “I’m not able to watch an animal suffer!,” there’s still a minority today who continue to believe that animals are more “resistant” to pain than humans! In the spectrum of empathy regarding what and how your cat or dog may feel, there will always be those pet owners who will become insomniacs just thinking that their animal may die after skipping a meal. At the same time, there are always those who, often through ignorance and sometimes negligence, won’t realize their pet has been suffering for months.

In the defense of animal lovers, it must be acknowledged that chronic diseases and slow-developing conditions are the most difficult to diagnose in certain animals who are reluctant to show their suffering.

It’s in order to help pet owners to better identify and track potential causes and manifestations of pain that the veterinary communities in America and Europe have jointly declared that the month of September will be dedicated to raising awareness of animal pain.

The recognition of acute pain (trauma, inflammatory diseases, aggressive infections, surgery, etc.) is, in general, easy to perceive. The signs and symptoms typically look like this:

  • being more vocal (whimpering, growling)
  • changes in body posture
  • loss of appetite
  • agitation
  • behavioural changes
  • increased hostility
  • reduced mobility
  • reduced interaction
  • signs of discomfort

It’s especially the identification of chronic pain, experienced by those suffering from osteoarthritis, oral diseases and kidney failure etc., that’s the most insidious and the most worrying.

Our animals live much longer than in the past and are consequently more vulnerable to the onset of chronic pain consistent with aging. One should never conclude that an animal isn’t experiencing pain just because it’s not exhibiting visible signs and symptoms.

Fortunately, there are now different pain identification grids that can simplify your life. Don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian to find out more.With a little support, encouragement and deeper understanding, you can become an expert in the art of tracking signs and symptoms associated with animal pain. By acting promptly, you can prevent the development of unnecessary suffering, support the work of your veterinarian and promote faster healing and relief for your pet.

Together, thanks to today’s advances in science, we can not only soothe the suffering of your animal, but also a little of yours!

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