Rescue Journal

assessing pain in animals

Carol  ·  Aug. 9, 2014

no such luck with losing the headache during the night...that pretty much sucks.

i oft times think of the animals and how they deal with pain or illness without having the ability to reach into a medicine cabinet at will. if someone doesn't love them or care...they have to suffer thru and manage as best as they can for as long as they can.

puts my headache into perspective because i have already been into the tylenol and now am just waiting for some headache relief.

it is a bit tricky when assessing animals pain. it is especially hard here because so many of our animals are ancient. a 17 yr old dog is going to sleep a lot, have trouble moving..esp getting up and down. their bodies are old and stiff and wearing out. we rightly assume all of them have pain because they are old and arthritic so everyone gets something to help them out. but the pain meds are not a fountain of youth...a 17 year old body is still freaking old and stiff and wearing out. pain meds just help that aging process not hurt. but 17 yr old dogs are still going to move stiffly, they are still going to sleep a lot because a 17 yr old body is still creaky, old and stiff and doesn't have a lot of stamina.

once they are on a good maintenence plan the trick is knowing when to adjust meds because they need more. increasing doses is hard on their kidneys and livers, its hard on their GI tracts and if they are not really in pain, increasing doses just sedate them and make them feel even more tired and older. so any increases have to be a needed and true benefit that outweighs the risks. but pain is always the number one issue that must be addressed and controlled otherwise life is not worth living if it continually hurts.

so i look at their faces...esp. their eyes. there is a big difference between faces that say interest, contentment, involvement, participation, eagerness, happiness and joy and faces that say exhaustion, hopelessness, helplessness, disinterest, heavy burdens and just hanging on. i watch their breathing because all creatures with pain breath differently then those without...the breathing can be shallow and quicker or deeper and shuttering or even just slightly irregular, holding a few breaths in between. i watch to see if their muscle tense when they are thinking about shifting their positions a bit and how much thought they have to give to each small move. and i look for things like restlessness..physical and emotional because creatures in discomfort have a hard time settling into relaxed comfort and really enjoying a good snooze. but mostly i look for worried eyes and faces...subtle signs of tenseness or preoccupation with things going on inside.

i do not like headaches..i do not like makes it much harder than necessary for me to get thru my day. and sometimes we really do not know or recognize or admit that animals in this regard are built exactly the same. so it is our job to keep an eye open intelligent and put a lid on panic and try to objectively see what they are telling us because pain may be silent but it is not invisible and it hurts them if we are not there to help them. pain might be hard to see in someone else if we are not looking but if we are really is almost impossible to hide.


Carol A.

Sending hugs, and cool weather and good thoughts for healing of your poor headache, and the aches and pains of all the critters. May their slumber be deep and sweet, and your headache soon be only a memory.

I hope Rio finds his happy place with the herd quickly, and that your little maple survives! thank you for all the updates.