2. Minimise handling that may be painful and contact your veterinarian immediately.
  3. If your pet is in pain following a surgical procedure, contact your veterinarian immediately. Sometimes pain is anticipated, and in such cases veterinary analgesics are usually prescribed. But pain may be a sign of an unexpected complication.
  4. Sometimes the only way to know that an animal is in pain, is to administer pain relief and see if there is a change in behaviour.
  5. Do not give your pet any human pain killers such as paracetamol/Panadol® or aspirin without veterinary advice as these may be toxic to your pet.
  6. If your pet is already on pain killers, advise your veterinarian which product, the dose given and how often this is administered.


Pain is defined as an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage. Pain has a range of negative effects including delaying wound healing and recovery.

Animals often mask signs of pain, so it can sometimes be difficult to tell if your pet is in pain.


Unlike humans, animals may not vocalise or cry out, even with severe pain. Aside from obviously painful conditions, such as a laceration or fracture, pain causes changes in vital signs and behaviour.

Vital sign changes include:

  • Increased heart or pulse rate
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Increased temperature

Behavioural signs of pain include:

  • Purring, growling, hissing
  • Restlessness or agitation, increased aggression or timidity
  • Resentment of handling or hypersensitivity to touch
  • Depression, lethargy
  • Insomnia, reluctance to lie down
  • Inappetence
  • Abnormal posture (eg. hunched, prayer position)
  • Changes in gait including lameness
  • Licking or chewing at affected area
  • Trembling, increased muscle tension
  • Lack of grooming
  • Increased or decreased urination
  • Failure to use litter box


  • Pain can be caused by a very wide range of problems, varying in severity. Broadly, pain can be caused by acute conditions (for example a sudden injury such as a fracture or laceration) or chronic conditions (for example, periodontal disease or arthritis).
  • If in doubt, if you know that a type of condition or injury would cause you pain, it is likely that the same condition or injury would cause an animal pain.


The vet will collect a thorough history and conduct a physical examination to try to localise the source of pain. Sometimes, this can be difficult and further diagnostic tests like blood tests, x-rays or ultrasound may be required to find out the underlying cause of pain.

There are several different classes of drugs that have different pain relieving effects. Your vet will recommend the most suitable analgesics for your pet. The effectiveness of analgesic (pain relief) treatment can be re-evaluated regularly to optimise management of pain in your pet.


Perkowski SZ Pain and Sedation Assessment (2009) In: Small Animal Critical Care Medicine. Ed. Silverstein DC & Hopper K. Missouri, USA: Saunders Elsevier.