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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Your Pet Is Not a 4 Legged Human

This morning I received a telephone call from a woman expressing concern that her dog was painful and had been up all night.  This morning she gave her dog an Ibuprofen tablet.  I was immediately concerned for the dog.  You may not know that Ibuprofen is not tolerated by dogs and extremely toxic to cats.  Your pets are not furry humans.  In the Veterinary World, we use lots of human labeled medications in pets, but how the animal utilizes it and eliminates it from the body can differ from humans.  Your veterinarian is educated in pharmacology and the best source of information regarding what medications are safe for your pet.  Before you give any over the counter medication or left over medication your physician prescribed you, please talk to your veterinarian.

This conversation inspired me to address the issue of recognizing and treating pain in your pets.  Since your pet is not verbal, it is often difficult to assess pain in dogs and cats (even for a veterinarian), they are very good at masking pain (especially cats!).  Animals have a genetic "hardwire" to hide pain, if they exhibit pain, they could be vulnerable to predators that prey on the weak.  Pain is very subjective and difficult to measure.  It is not uncommon for us to see one patient crying and limping over a torn toe nail and another that happily wags it's tail and jumps around with a broken leg.  Some animals are just more stoic than others with regard to pain, same could be said for humans.

Signs of pain can be very subtle; a reluctance to move, anorexia, hiding, anxious behavior, pacing, grouchiness are some examples.  These can also be signs of other conditions.   Even overt signs of pain like crying or yelping can be associated with conditions that cause pain; pancreatitis, cancers, etc.  It is common for me to have a pet owner bring their pet in because they sense that something is just not right, we call that "ADR" (Ain't Doing Right).  They don't have anything specific they can pinpoint, the pet is eating ok, drinking ok, not vomiting, going to the bathroom ok, not limping or crying, but just seems a little left of center.  A careful history, physical examination, potential diagnostic tests such as blood work and radiograph may be necessary to isolate the problem.  It is important for you and your veterinarian to work together interrupting your pet's body language in order to isolate the primary problem.

The important thing to remember is FIRST TALK TO YOUR VETERINARIAN.  Make an appointment for your pet to have your veterinarian assess your pet's condition and why your pet is painful before any medication is administered.  For more information on how to determine if your pet is painful check out this link at the American Animal Hospital Association.