The Far Reaching Effects of Pain and Discomfort

Look beneath the surface; let not the several quality of a thing nor its worth escape thee. ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Pain is a very common medical issue that can create or exacerbate behavior problems in our animal companions.  We must be aware of this.  Labeling behavior as “acting out” or “misbehaving” is not going to help matters, especially if there is an underlying medical issue.

Anxiety, aggression, fear, and depression can stem from pain.  Growling, hissing, swatting, biting, hiding, and urinating or defecating in unusual places are just a few of the behaviors that you might see when your pet in pain or discomfort.   Sometimes these symptoms can be easily overlooked, particularly in cats.  Often arthritis is blamed on “old age”  rather than very real pain.  A cat who is urinating inappropriately in the home may have a painful lower urinary tract disease, rather than a “behavior problem.”

Pain can be very difficult to recognize in many species.  Animals have evolved to disguise pain to help them survive.  Cats are a great example of this.  They are one of the few companion animal species that is both prey and predator.

All species of prey animals instinctively hide their pain so they don’t appear weak, and become an easy target.  Domestic house cats may not have any “natural predators” indoors, but they have retained that instinct.  If you live in a multi-species household, you can bet that if one animal is in pain or discomfort, they will do their best to hide it from the others.  Don’t assume that an animal will rest and stay comfortably still if they are in pain.  Many of them will push through the pain and discomfort.  Some will even play when they are in pain.

That’s where your job as their guardian comes in!  When you learn to become aware of your pet’s daily routines and their subtle behaviors, you will know when something is wrong with them, even when they don’t “show” you.  Many animal behaviors go unnoticed until they become annoying, inconvenient, or even dangerous.

Watch them.  Learn their routines.  Know their behaviors as well as you know yours, your kid’s, or your partner’s behavior and routines.  You will be able to better prevent behavioral issues before they arise. This is how we can become a Conscious Companion!

Here are some helpful ways to learn if an animal is in pain or discomfort:

  • decreased activity
  • lethargy
  • decreased appetite
  • decreased grooming
  •  inappropriate elimination
  • vocalization
  • aggression
  • decreased interaction with other pets and family members,
  • altered facial expression
  • altered posture
  • restlessness
  •  hiding
  • elevations in heart rate
  • increased breathing
  • higher body temperature and blood pressure
  • dilated pupils

Something else to consider is how your pet reacts to being touched – if he/she has increased body tension, or if she flinches in response to a gentle touch, that’s a sign that you need to seek help.

If you see any of these symptoms or behaviors, you should call your veterinarian right away.


Have you ever noticed a subtle change in an animal’s behavior and then later discovered that it was caused by pain or discomfort?

Please share in the comments below!


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3 thoughts on “The Far Reaching Effects of Pain and Discomfort

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