Pain in Humans and Animals
The basic drive behind all the systems (musculoskeletal, cardiovascular , digestion, fluid metabolism etc) that maintain both animals and human is to keep the species going. Our basic needs are to eat, survive and breed to continue our species. Pain is one aspect of this that helps us to survive.
Humans have more options than animals when it comes to pain. If we have a sore tooth we know we can visit the dentist or eat soft food. If we are feeling ill or sore we can stay in bed until we feel better - we know we don't have to get up and go and hunt or scavenge for food so we don't starve. The brain wiring that has driven us in the past is not as strong as it was previously. This drive , however, still exists in our pets. And this is unfortunately to their detriment. It means if they are in pain they will limit how this is shown. They might have bad teeth and a sore mouth but have to eat whatever they are given by us. They might have sore joints and muscles but can't afford to appear "weak". They don't want to be the sick zebra in the herd that is going to be picked off by the lion.
This means the subtle signs of pain in pets can be missed by owners. I regularly see owners not noticing pain in:
- pets with terrible teeth and oral health
- pets with sore backs
- pets with arthritis
Types of Pain
Pain can be acute or chronic. Acute pain is often due to a recent injury or trauma. Chronic pain may have originated as acute pain that then results in issues. Acute pain is often noticable to owners but chronic pain is often missed. The long term nature of chronic pain means the animal has time to compensate and "hide" the signs. Anyone with chronic pain knows how debilitating it can be on a day to day basis.
Pain can occur in many different body systems
- Dental pain can come from gingivitis, ulcers or broken teeth
- Skin pain can come from rashes, scrapes, punctures etc
- Musculoskeletal pain can come from bones, joints, tendons, muscles, ligaments etc
- Visceral pain can come from internal organs including stomach, intestines, kidneys, bladder, gall bladder, lungs etc
- Neurologic pain arises from the "wrong" signal coming from nerves. This can come from nerve damage, metabolic disease and degenerative neuropathies.
Signs of pain
These can include
loss of appetite
increased activity – horses in particular may pace or roll excessively when in pain
decreased engagement with human and animal friends
posture changes – may be rigid, hunched, or drooping
limping/change in gait
change in behavior – aggression/irritability
whining/moaning/ other vocalization
incontinence – may not feel good enough to go outside or to litter box
squinting, blinking, tears, eye redness or discharge.
So watch your pet closely. If there seems to be a change in behaviour then contact your vet and get them checked over. The signs of pain in pets can be subtle so be on the lookout and you'll be doing the best for your furry friend.
Treatments offered by Balance Vet Rehab that may be beneficial for these pets include:
Effects of Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields on Postoperative Pain: A Double-Blind Randomized Pilot Study in Breast Augmentation Patients .Per Hedén et al.
Manipulation and mobilization for treating chronic low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis D.Coulter PhD et al
Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Update of an Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis Andrew J.Vickers et al
Efficacy of electrical nerve stimulation for chronic musculoskeletal pain: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Michael Johnson et al
The effectiveness of low-level laser therapy for nonspecific chronic low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis ZeYu Huang et al
Exercise interventions for the treatment of chronic low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Angela Searle et al
Shockwave (COMING SOON)
Application and efficacy of extracorporeal shockwave treatment for knee osteoarthritis: A systematic review and meta‑analysis Tengqi Li et al