Ask the Vet with Dr. Ann Caulfield

University of Pennsyvania

Q: My dog has arthritis in both hips. He limps and seems a little stiff, but he never cries or whines. Does this mean he’s not in pain?

A: Not necessarily. The accurate assessment and proper management of pain are hot topics in veterinary medical circles these days. How many times have you looked at your animal companion and wished he or she could talk and tell you what they were feeling and where it might hurt? Crying out, or whining, are sounds we can relate to and immediately identify with but unfortunately, our pets don’t often communicate their pain in such an obvious way.

So how do we, as caring animal caretakers, make an accurate assessment of our pet’s comfort level? Believe it or not, animals are wonderful communicators once we learn to read THEIR language and correctly interpret what they are “telling” us. As pet guardians, we’re pretty good at picking up on the obvious acute pain signals our pets are putting out. Chronic pain is different. In our animal companions, chronic pain is most often linked with diseases like arthritis, dental disease (yes, there is significant pain associated with an unhealthy mouth!), lingering soft tissue injury, and cancer. As an astute and observant pet parent you are in the best position to be your cherished pet’s health care advocate. If you sense something is wrong, ”go with your gut”, if you find yourself saying “Furry USED to be up on this windowsill all the time but now…” or “Fido’s stiff and a little slower, it must be old age…” then seek out a thorough veterinary evaluation. The management of chronic pain in veterinary patients has expanded tremendously. The use of pain medications, appropriate exercise and complimentary therapies like acupuncture, can help your pet live the long and comfortable life she deserves.

ABOUT the Vet

Dr. Ann Caulfield is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary medicine. Additionally, Dr. Caulfield has received advanced training in acupuncture.

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